Many fellow bloggers have done a great job covering the State of the European Union address by Jose Manuel Barroso and the parliamentary debate that followed both in their blogs (see Grahnlaw and Jon Worth) and on Twitter. I will not discuss the issues in the debate or the qualities of the speakers in it.
However, I am very much interested in the (hidden) institutional framework of this debate. It is not uncommon for the Commission president to outline his legislative program before the European Parliament, as Andrew J. Burgess has pointed out. However, the new format appears similar to the US State of the Union address delivered by the President. Does this mean that Barroso sees himself as the head of state of the EU? Hardly the case, but there is some symbolic value in this endeavour.
More importantly, the President of the European Parliament made this observation via Twitter:
“This is the first time we have a debate on the State of the Union. It is a step on the road to a parliamentary Europe.”
If this is not an empty statement, it should be revealing the conviction of the Parliament that we’re moving on that road to “parliamentary Europe”. The Parliament has been claiming this for many years, but the difference today is that it has more instruments to actually influence both the work of the Commission and the policy choices of the EU. So it may turn out that Mr. Buzek’s comment reveals not only an objective for the future, but also some satisfaction with the results already achieved.