skip to content


Session: Keynote speeches introducing to Working Group G & H

Speakers: Shahin Vallée / Zoltán Martinusz 

Rapporteur: Alexander Melzer

The second day of the SUMMIT Kick-off Conference focussed on the role of the European Council during the economic and financial crisis and its role within the EU Common Foreign Policy. Two keynote speeches, presented by Shahin Vallée (Affiliated fellow to Bruegel, European Institute at the LSE) and Zoltán Martinusz (Council of the European Union), introduced to the subsequent Working Group G and to the Working Group H sessions.

Shahin Vallée’s keynote speech was dedicated to the role of the European Council during the Financial Crisis. In one of his first remarks he asserted a suffering of the Eurozone from an institutional crisis rather than an economic crisis. Against this background, Vallée pledged for constitutional reforms to address the economic and financial problems the European Monetary Union is currently dealing with. He illustrated his considerations with three examples. According to him, the EU failed to deliver coherent and effective solutions to the challenges of the Banking Crisis which was mainly due to the insufficient instruments which are provided by the treaties. By contrast the United States had been recovering more quickly from the Financial Crisis than Europe because of its consistent constitutional framework. Furthermore, Vallée came to the conclusion that without a common economic policy for the Eurozone, the European Central Bank (ECB) couldn’t fulfil its duties to stabilise the financial markets in an effective and consistent way.

According to Vallée, the Eurogroup, as the informal key institution during the crisis, was an excellent example of institutional insufficiency. He pointed out that 22 different interests were frequently represented in this institution throughout the entire Greek Crisis, including the representatives of the Eurozone member states as well the European Commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund. With that said, it was obvious that such an accumulation of different interests and veto players in one institution could only fail to provide clear, coherent and sustainable answers to the current economic challenges in Europe.

The second part of Vallée’s speech dealt with some specific deficits within the institutional set-up of the EU. He pointed out that the significant part missing from the institutional framework of the European Monetary Union is an effective economic government. Regrettably the position of the European Commission was too weak to be considered as something like a “Gouvernment Économique”. The only institution that could be seen as something like an effective executive during the crisis is the European Council, albeit lacking the required and sufficient democratic legitimacy. Finally Vallée emphasised that when it comes to the influence and the role of the national parliaments during the Euro Crisis, some national parliaments played a very dominant role while the majority of the national parliaments had been marginalised. He concluded his remarks by indicating that currently there is neither the will to reform the treaties nor a consensus about further integration within the EU.

In his key note speech Zoltán Martinusz emphasised on current challenges of the Post-Lisbon Cohesion in EU Foreign Policy. He commenced his remarks with the observation that the Lisbon treaty created too high expectations regarding the EU Common Foreign Policy (CFP), which could only be disappointed, since the institutional capacities concerning the CFP are very limited under the new treaty. Martinusz gave an overview of the functioning and different responsibilities concerning the CFP under the Lisbon treaty. One of the major problems the CFP was still dealing with is the enormous lack of cohesion. According to him, these cohesion deficits concerning the CFP were partly triggered by an institutional cacophony. It was characteristic for the CFP under the Lisbon treaty that foreign policy on European level is not accumulated in one institution. Furthermore, he pointed out that from a legal perspective the President of the European Council is officially responsible for EU Foreign Policy. Yet, the institution is neither equipped with sufficient institutional capacities nor the staff to fulfil its new competences. By contrast the High Representative of the Union of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy could be considered as an institution, which had a certain amount of influence and institutional capacities, but which was often overloaded by expectations and tasks. Another EU Foreign Policy paradox, according to Martinusz, was the role of the President of the Commission in EU Foreign Policy. Although this role of the President of the Commission is not legally recognised under the treaties it must be taken into account. 

Furthermore, he identified two trends of the recent post-Lisbon foreign policy of the EU. On the one side EU external partners weren’t seeing the Union as real foreign policy player except in some regional policy fields like the EU-Western Balkan States relations and on the other side foreign policy was still highly dominated by the member states leading to a sort of renationalization of the CFP. In his final remarks Martinusz underlined that cohesion regarding the foreign policy of the EU was difficult yet possible in principle which was remarkably shown by the EU joint sanctions against Russia. At this stage, having in mind the different interests of the member states, further integration regarding the EU Foreign Policy would be not the right answer to achieve a more coherent EU Foreign Policy. 

In the following discussion chaired by Joachim Schild (Trier University) Phillipe de Schoutheete enriched the debate with a comment on Shahin Vallée’s speech.  He noted that the reason for the insufficient answers to the past and present economic challenges in Europe were less institutional than political. From his point of view, the main obstacle for an effective and coherent economic policy was the political dissent within the Eurogroupe and not the institutional deficits. This would be an argument challenging Vallée’s assumed institutional crisis. Vallée answered that the Euro Crisis was in fact determined by political dissent among the political leaders of the Eurozone member states; however, this could have been avoided by a different institutional framework. Regarding to Martinusz’s speech the audience noted that more attention should be paid to the current and possible future role of the European Parliament concerning the EU foreign policy. In his closing remarks Joachim Schild underlined that both the economic and financial crisis of the EU and the lack of cohesion regarding the EU Foreign Policy were rather caused by ideological disagreements than institutional deficits. 

1 / 2