If the Little Mermaid at the entry of the port of Copenhagen belongs to the world's cultural heritage and enjoys far greater renown than the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that inspired her sculptor, it is because this hybrid figure, half-woman and half-fish, forms part of humanity's imaginative universe. Literary persons often see the tale as an allegory of the physiological and psychological changes that take place in all human beings between childhood and adulthood. As Denmark takes up the European Union Council Presidency on 1 January, the member states would do well to give thought to the deeper message of Andersen's tale: it is best not to tamper with the nature of certain things.

Europolitics' forward analysis of the EU's heavy work programme for the first half of 2012, presented in these pages, announces changes of which three could alter the nature of the Union and carry risks for the future of the economic and political edifice the 27 members have built to date.


On 9 December 2011, determined to sign up to strict fiscal discipline, 26 states (all but the United Kingdom, which chose to isolate itself) decided to conclude a new treaty by March, referred to as an "intergovernmental agreement". If the extraordinary EU summit, on 30 January, confirms that the economic and fiscal union will be created by means of an intergovernmental agreement, leaving only a symbolic place for the historic institutions, a hybrid Europe will be born. It will be the expression of a radically "new" vision defended as follows by the French president: "The fact that responsibility for governance now falls on the heads of state and government marks unquestionable progress [ ]. Things will now be clearer for the Commission. It is charged with ensuring compliance with the treaties and applying sanctions [ ].From that standpoint, it is irreplaceable." (Le Monde, 12 December 2011). This likening of the Commission to a mere sanctions machine (and manufacturer of Europhobics, some might say) and the sidelining of the European Parliament will assuredly mobilise adversaries of the Europe of states. In the European Parliament, for example, the latest conference of group chairs flagged up the threat of suspending the EP's role as co-legislator, thus blocking all legislative developments.


Similarly, if the United Kingdom were to seek a new identity, with one foot in the EU and the other outside it (just...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT