OPEN FORUM : THE UNION ON 1 JANUARY 2011: MATURITY SLOW IN COMING.

The European adventure has been underway for 60 years. It is customary to stress the youthfulness of European integration to explain its difficulties and weaknesses. However, is this benevolence towards the first steps of a political construction justified when the kid' has just turned 60?

What is the state of the Union at the end of this first decade of the 21st century?

A distinction needs to be made between the state of the European Union's institutions and mechanics and that of its member states.

The European Union works and works well.

After barely a year, the institutional reforms resulting from the Lisbon Treaty are starting to play their role. The permanent European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, has enabled the heads of state and government to occupy a central role in today's situation. With the now almost monthly meetings of the European Council and the continuity of the positions adopted, its permanent president is contributing to the emergence of a Europeanisation of the solutions delivered by Europe's leaders. The example of the financial crisis demonstrates the extent to which the Union's hybrid nature, both federative and intergovernmental, is a strength if each component feels that it is able to express and defend the interests for which it is responsible. While the crisis shaking the eurozone and the plan to cope with it are European, the funds mobilised to ensure its rescue are national and subject to the scrutiny of national parliaments. Without this close intermeshing between the institutions that represent European solidarity (Commission and European Parliament) and those with national democratic responsibility (European Council and national parliaments), the European adventure would doubtless have been brought to an end last spring with the Greek crisis.

The purely European dimension works effectively. The EU legislator (Council and European Parliament) accomplished a remarkable amount of work in a very short time to create a regulatory framework for supervision of financial, insurance and banking markets by setting up three European supervisory authorities (the three draft regulations of 23 September...

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