I have been down with a nasty flu and barely managed to write a few texts in Swedish, so this blog had to take a temporary break.
Today, I notice that the big EU economies have taken steps towards a common line at the G-20 meeting in April. At today´s meeting in Berlin, they agreed inter alia on the need to provide more capital to the IMF and to regulate hedge funds.
Seems like a good thing. But the meeting as such causes worry in small and medium-size Member States, such as Sweden.
When I was in the Council, there was always talk about co-ordination between the Big Three – France, Germany and the UK. However, more often than not, their views diverged.
Then we had enlargement to 25 Member States and policy issues such as Iran, where the Big Three did international relations on behalf of the EU. By that time I had left the Foreign Ministry. “It´s OK as long as it turns out well”, a high-level Swedish diplomat told me.
With a further expansion to 27 Members States, signs of close co-ordination between the bigger members began to show. I heard rumours of regular meetings at senior officials level to discuss the EU agenda in different fields. In some areas, such as justice and home affairs, the Big Five – now including Italy and Spain – agreed common action plans.
Swedish diplomats seemed at bit more worried by then, but still kept a brave face. “OK, they try to co-ordinate, but in the end they still have disagreements and we have the possibility to influence the final EU decisions”
Now, the tone is more somber. Today´s meeting in Berlin is causing concern that the big states are now definitely running the show.
The five co-ordinate more now, senior diplomats tell me. Apparently, this development has been reinforced by the amateurish Czech Presidency and the delayed ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
My questions is: how long will the small and medium-states tolerate to being treated as second-class members?
After all, the European Union is built on nation states, and more than 20 of them are not represented when the Big Five try to decide EU policy.
One sign will be the designation of the new posts foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty. Will the big Member States do the deal on the President of the Council and appoint someone from their own circle (as they did in 1999, when Pierre de Boissieu got the influential post as Deputy Secretary-General instead of Denmark´s well-qualified candidate)?
Or will the 22 other Member States demand a counter-balance to the informal co-ordination between the Big Five, through a stronger leadership of the Commission and a President of the Council with the courage to say No to Berlin, London and Paris?
Sweden will play a crucial role as the EU Presidency the second half of this year, when the decisions will be made.