Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, appeared at the Law School on September 21 to participate in “Europe and the United States: A Transatlantic Dialogue.” At the event, a discussion sponsored annually by NYU Law’s Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law & Justice, Von Rompuy delved into a range of European political issues with University Professor and Joseph Straus Professor of Law J.H.H. Weiler, who is director of the JeanMonnet Center, Professor Gráinne de Búrca, and Renée Haferkamp, a senior visiting scholar at Harvard University.
The conversation touched on a wide range of topics, starting with the structure of the European Union (EU) leadership, which features two presidents – one, the president of the European Commission; the other, in this case Rompuy, the head of the European Council. “Does this institutional solution serve Europe well?” de Búrca asked. “Is the double-headed presidency working?” Weiler asked a similar question about the recently created post of European foreign minister. Van Rompuy said his office is able to provide “coherence and continuity” on matters involving EU-wide governance, and can work to build consensus among all 27 EU members, which, he noted, is particularly important in times of crisis. And the EU foreign minister, he said, is in a “steering position” for the EU as a whole in matters of diplomacy. He pointed to efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an area in which EU members have been able to act in concert. Eventually Weiler turned the discussion to what he called “the elephant in the room”: the euro crisis. Is there a sufficient sense of solidarity in Europe, Weiler asked, to move the EU further in the direction of a fiscal union? “How much further will politicians be able to go against public opinion?” Van Rompuy acknowledged that there are hurdles to overcoming the current crisis, but counseled patience. The EU, he said, has been built gradually. “At each stage there are difficulties, but never a step backwards.” Each step is “in the right direction.” Is default by Greece a possible option? Haferkamp asked. “Not at all,” Van Rompuy said. “Because there is no alternative. The dangers of contagion … are so great that you can’t take that risk.”
Watch the full video of the event (1 hr, 4 min):