The essential elements of the analysis and the recommendations
emphasized in the White Paper can be summarized in a few simple
On the whole, European integration is a great success.
If, notwithstanding this, many Europeans "feel alienated from the
Union's work" and if the turnout in elections to the European Parliament is
decreasing, these facts reflect a perception of European policy as being either
ineffective or excessively detailed and intrusive.
Much of this is a problem of either poor public relations or
intentional misrepresentation: "Where the Union does act effectively, it rarely
gets proper credit for its actions", and "Brussels is too easily blamed by
Member States for difficult decisions that they themselves have agreed or even
To the extent that real difficulties do exist, they can be overcome
if the Union is able and willing to "revitalise the Community method" according
to which "everyone should concentrate on their core tasks: the Commission
initiates and executes policy; the Council and the European Parliament decide
on legislation and budgets... and the European Parliament controls the
execution of the budget and of the Union's policies" (p. 29).
Compared to present practices, this would require the following changes:
Council and Parliament should limit their involvement in "primary"
European legislation to the definition of "essential elements.., leaving the
executive" [i.e., the Commission] "to fill in the technical detail via
implementing `secondary' rules" (p. 20) without being bothered by national
representatives in management or regulatory "Comitology" procedures (p. 31).
The Commission on its part would then promote "openness" and
transparency by providing more (online) information about all stages of
European decision processes; it would promote "participation" by extending its
efforts to involve and consult subnational and local governments, "civil
society" and "network-led initiatives" in preparing its legislative
initiatives; and it would promote "effectiveness" by collaborating more closely
with affected industries, local and regional governments and "civil society" in
the implementation of European legislation, and by prosecuting national
governments accused of violating European law more vigorously.
There is, of course, more in the text, and
much of it is quite reasonable, but this thumbnail sketch seems to capture the
essential understanding of the institutional problématique, and
of the strategic vision promoted by the authors of the White Paper. Their
significance, however, becomes clear only in relation to the issues which are
not discussed at all in the White Paper.