The German presidency passed more than half time and there are already two successes to be named, which will assure the remembrance of the German presidency of the Council of the EU.
First and most amazing, is the agreement on climate and energy policies. During the Spring Summit of the European Council on 8th and 9th of March, the EU-leaders adopted a road map, that should lead to a common Energy Policy. The Heads of States and Governments agreed to reduce the CO2 emissions until 2020 by 20% compared to 1990. Furthermore, they set the target to increase energy efficiency until 2020 by reducing its waste by 20% and to provide until the same time at least 20% of EU´s energy supply from renewable energies. The percentage of organic fuel in gas and diesel shall also be risen by 10% till 2020.
This topic of Energy Policy, although – at the moment – one of the most pressing, was unlikely to be solved so soon within the European Union. After the Summit of the Ministers of Economy in February, experts were sure that any decision in this portfolio would be delayed because of the dissent and headwind coming up especially from Eastern Europe and France. The chance to agree on an issue as strategically important as the energy policy, without getting lost in a debate about climate and energy policy details, seemed hardly possible. But still, the consensus 20-20-10-20 is on the table and all aspects, that could have caused dissent or failure of the summit were temporarily left out (so was the negotiation about the reform of the electricity network, that had been scheduled on the agenda as well). So, one of the core-disagreements, the definition of renewable energies, is also still up to every single Member State, what means that states like France can hold on to there atom energy within the boundaries of EU regulations.
Even though this energy agenda is a great achievement of the German presidency and shows its ability to lead the Member States to consensus and immediate action, it is obvious that side effects like the publishing of the UN climate report had there hand in the fast decision-making of the EU-leaders.
The second success during the first half of the German presidency is the concrete naming of a deadline to create a new basis of the EU in the Berlin-Declaration. So, until the end of the Czech presidency in June of 2009, a new treaty shall be agreed on. Still, this is a very ambivalent achievement that can not only be seen as a success, but also as a new matter within an upcoming contradictory and eager discussion. The problems before the publishing of the Berlin-Declaration, especially in regard of the formulations, once again separated the Member States from each other and the realization of the target to build a new base will do so even more. But still, the declaration is signed by all Member States and is a serious attempt to help the European Citizens identify once again with the Union, its achievements and targets for the future.
In foreign affairs, but, the German presidency has not yet been able to realize the aims set before the presidency. The more intense concern about Middle East and the Balkan States or the improvement of the relationships to Russia and the USA have not yet been tackled. But even if the presidency had taken those topics lately to the closer agenda, there surely would not have been enough support to actually take these efforts to success. Too many strong European leaders are momentarily weakened, as the governments of states like France, Great Britain and Italy are permanently newly elected or in disadvantageous domestic positions. So the only success to be remarked in this portfolio is the extension of the Treaty of Prüm to the entire EU. What means, that the Member States will be able to access one another’s DNA, fingerprint and vehicle databases.
Angela Merkel is at the moment one of the most important persons, maybe not only on the European stage, but also on international floor. The fact that Germany holds the presidency of the Council of the EU in the same year as it holds the presidency to the G-8 and the side effect that her strongest rivals in Europe are in weak domestic position helps her to gain ground through a diplomacy that does not intent to be leading, but guiding and connecting. Her appearance is never superior to her negotiation partners and not arrogant or overbearing, which ensures that all strings of the cobwebs she is spinning, are all leading to Berlin.
So, the 1½ years of intense preparation on the part of the German government seem to pay off. The European Union is cutting-edge in climate policy and it is even possible that this portfolio – and in concrete the consensus against all national and various traditions in this regard – will give the Union its motion, unity and capacity to act back. But to finally judge on the German presidency, its successes and failures, it is necessary to wait for the summit in June, where a road map for the new treaty shall be adopted. The extent of this road map and the aims formulated at the summit will decide whether the presidency will be able to register only those two successes or even more.