Sunday, 17 May 2015 15:01

Award Cameron for giving Europe a boost!

Written by Frank Burgdörfer
cameron EU
Photo: Number 10 (Flickr); Licence:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the wake of last week's "Karlspreis" being awarded to Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, guest author Frank Burgdörfer reflects upon this predictable choice and suggests David Cameron as a better candidate given his European achievements.

The city of Aachen has awarded Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, with the "Karlspreis" – an annual prize named after the medieval emperor Charlemagne. It comes as no surprise at all, as the prize is usually given to people who hold key functions in European institutions. Thus the group of potential recipients is rather limited. Council president Donald Tusk and commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were already awarded the prize. As former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet got one previously, it will most likely be the turn of his successor Mario Draghi next year. Truly exciting...

Do not get me wrong: Schulz definitely has merits with regard to Europe. However, this is not exceptional because we as European tax payers remunerate him well for his work. He has indeed increased and consolidated the EP’s influence over the last years. Still, giving him an award for that is a bit like awarding the Pope for special achievements in the field of leading the Catholic Church. 

Are there no committed citizens, innovate business men, progressive researchers or clerics building bridges in Europe? Cartoonists, journalists, historians, teachers or doctors, who have used their positions to give "exceptional contributions in political, economic or spiritual regard for the unity of Europe", as a declaration from 1990 puts it? It seems that the Charlemagne Prize actually puts the city of Aachen more into the spotlight than the awardee – which is in fact often the case with other prizes too. 

As there are not enough European key politicians for an annual prize, national politicians are also awarded regularly. Fifty years ago it might have been laudable to give national interest a lower priority in favour of idealistic European considerations. Today, the interests of the European Union and its member states are so closely intertwined that any politician solely acting within a national scope while leaving European considerations out of sight would be acting irresponsibly. It is well understood that European politics is of national interest all over the union; doing it professionally is nothing beyond duty. 

EU commission

However, even today they do exist: national politicians who manage great European achievements, without acting consciously in the interest of their own country. The most prominent example of the past year is the British prime minister. Giving high personal commitment and taking risks regarding his own reputation, he successfully united socialists and social democrats in the European Parliament behind the conservative candidate for commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. He also created unanimity (not including himself of course) in the European Council, even though before his intervention Angela Merkel was not the only senior politician showing doubts over Juncker. David Cameron successfully contributed to establishing the European Parliament’s right to name the commission president and to degrading the council’s nomination to a mere matter of protocol. This was a huge step in parliamentarising the EU and will come to be seen as a decisive event in the union’s constitutional development. 

You never know what awardees manage to achieve afterwards. The current state of affairs in the UK gives reason for both hopes and fears. Maybe his politics will still lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and establish England’s dependency on the EU without the means to influence it politically. But then again, maybe his attempts will, in effect, again bring Europe further. We should remain optimistic. Award the talented Cameron with the Charlemagne Prize, he truly deserves it. 

frank burgdorferABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frank Burgdörfer is an economist and political scientist. His Berlin-based agency x³ develops and realises projects of civic education and training. Frank is also a member of the "Team Europe", a pool of expert speakers coordinated by the European Commission. He was founder and for ten years chairman of the network Citizens of Europe and is now member of the board of the German branch of the European Movement. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 16:58

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