A new geography for the European institutions by 2020
The Court of Justice in The Hague, the Central Bank in Frankfurt, the Commission in Paris!
The Parliament and the Council in Brussels or in London?
The second Eurorings seminar gathered 25 participants at the premisses of the City of Hague, co-organiser of the meeting. Less than 6 months after the first Eurorings session in the City Hall of Paris, the completely innovating approach invented by Europe 2020 in order to address the complex and crucial issues of the efficiency and democratization of the EU political and administrative system, proves its theoretical and practical performance.
The aim of the seminar, to identify one or more possible distribution(s) of the institutions over the “Central Euroring” area (London – The Hague – Brussels – Paris – Frankfurt), was reached. Two possible institutional maps were elaborated as a result of the identification of three objective criteria serving a rational distribution of the EU institutions over this precise area (the distribution over the « Second Euroring » will give matter to seminar in London in May 2003).
The rationality of the distribution of EU institutions by 2020 is in perfect line with the rationality that prevailed in the 50’s for the first geographical distribution:
1. after World War II, the reason required to consider 2 constraints when it came to distributing the new European administrations:
a. to identify the most neutral or symbolic places possible to organise the rapprochement of the enemies of yesterday (especially France and Germany) without provoking on the part of the various Member-States any fear that the one or the other would take control over the new common institutions
b. to choose cities and regions that would be convenient for European leaders and civil servants from 6 Member-States to meet, given the technological means available at that time (telephone, propeller planes and barely electrified trains).
Right from the beginning, any centralised system was clearly rejected. And that is the main common feature between the past and the future of European integration and institutional geography.
2. indeed, in the coming decades, when the Euroring 1 area becomes a vast European metropolis energized by high-speed trains (Thalys and EuroStar), fast and cheap planes and the new information technologies, the reason in terms of geographical distribution will have to obey three new criteria :
a. A European Added-Value in terms of sectoral Leadership: to find out the cities and regions endowed with the political, symbolic and historical strength required to anchor in a sustainable way a European Union of 500 million inhabitants into History (i.e. historically endowed with a capacity to leadership on a European scale and in the sector of the concerned institution).
b. A European Added-Value in terms of Democracy : to choose among the cities and regions those offering the most significant democratic added-value (i.e. those physically and symbolically likely to bring the institutions closer to a significant amount of European citizens).
c. A European Added-Value in terms of Competences : to identify among the cities and regions those with the human resources basins most adapted to the needs of the institutions they will be hosting (the growing complexity of EU management requires to diversify the expertise required within the institutions as well as an increasing resort to external expertise).
The application of these three criteria to the cities and regions of the Euroring 1 area has resulted in the definition of two possible distributions :
London: European Council
Brussels: European Parliament
The Hague: European Court of Justice
Paris : European Commission
Frankfurt : European Central Bank
London: European Parliament
Brussels: European Council
The Hague: European Court of Justice
Paris : European Commission
Frankfurt: European Central Bank
The criteria that were figured out thus prove their efficiency as the only differences between the two maps relate to the allocation for Brussels and London. In fact the application of the three criteria lead quite rapidly to a consensus over the institution/city-region “match” as regards to the Commission, the Central Bank and the Court of Justice. On the contrary, the application of criterium Nr 1 (sectoral leadership) resulted in splitting the seminar in two groups :
1. the first group (IA) considered that the historic role of « defendor of the nation-state » played by Britain regarding the « continent » and European integration, led quite naturally to London and its region becoming the host of the institution in charge of representing the States in the European processes, and that is the Council. The role played by this very Council in the future common foreign policy also pleeds in favour of London (one of the few cities with Paris belonging to the club of the global metropoles) in order to reinforce the global visibility of the EU. Among the reasons pleeding in favour of the Parliament being located in Brussels is the fact that it would place it at the hub of the political and institutional architecture of the EU.
2. the second group (IB) considered that the determining historical characteristic of Britain related to the development of a parliamentary system and therefore that London would quite naturally be the place were to settle the European Parliament.
As to the other cities, the three criteria enabled to confirm the choice of Frankfurt for the Bank. The Hague and the Delta Metropolis region (also including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht) has already been chosen on a global-scale to be the capital center of justice. Finally Paris and the Paris area, already thought about in the 50s/60s to host the Commission, is the other global metropolis (with London), likely to ensure international visibility for the European integrated executive organization ; and to be in line with the historic role of impulse played by the French since the origins of the European project.
During the seminar, seven highly important statements were reminded:
. the enlargement to the East will not affect significantly the demographic, economic, financial and scientific balances. Thus the centre of gravity of the enlarged EU will remain in effect in the Euroring 1 area.
. the European Parliament, whether it is allocated to London or Brussels, will have to be located in one single place.
. the « remoteness » of a city or a region should be measured in terms of time of travel, cost of travel and quantity of data instantly transmittable. According to these criteria, the cities and regions of the Euroring 1 are clearly among the closest from any point in the European Union.
. the EU will not be able to weigh significantly on global affairs until it will not express from cities that have long ago conquered their space in the planet’s political imagination.
. the very acurate problems of recruitment met by the European institutions from their three current capitals (concerning the civil servants as much as the experts) are in the rise and affect more and more the quality of the delivered services.
. the management of big international organisations (multinational companies in particular) show that for a decade already the concepts of physical meetings have been totally disrupted by the appearance of new technologies. The notion of proximity of the various functions within one organisation has considerably been enlarged.
. the Parliament-Government geographical proximity was only rarely a choice from the Parliament and more generally the choice of the executive power eager to keep the legislative power under strict supervision.