Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Weighing the Van Rompuy years of EU

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-28 07:19

Five years ago, when the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, Brussels had great ambitions of building a "United States of the European Union". It appointed Herman Van Rompuy the first permanent president of the European Council to oversee the longer-term issues and act as a low-profile consensus builder within the EU.

At that time, one year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Europeans had been fervently complaining against the woes inflicted on them by Wall Street bankers as financial panic swept the world. The EU hoped the G20 meetings and the Copenhagen climate conference would help rebuild global governance. But a year later, the eurozone encountered another debilitating problem: debt crisis. It started from Greece and spread to Portugal, Spain and Italy and other EU countries.

Soon, Van Rompuy and his fellow EU officials refocused the agenda on creating a firewall against the debt crisis, mobilizing resources to bail out the debt-ridden countries and stabilize the economies by boosting growth and creating jobs.

Delivering his farewell speech (his second term as EC president ends on Nov 30) at a meeting of EU leaders on Friday, Van Rompuy said history would be the best judge of the last five "stormy" years, although he conceded that the EU's social and economic problems are not over. An economist by training, Van Rompuy knows well the state of the EU he will exit.

Think tanks, opinion leaders and the media have been highlighting the problems facing the EU. Bertelsmann Stiftung, a Germany-based think tank, says in its Social Justice Index 2014 that the gap between participation opportunities in the still wealthy countries of northern Europe and the crisis-struck southern nations has significantly increased over the past years.

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