The simple fact that the Presidency of the European Union is considered an event in France is a novelty we should welcome. Usually we find indifference and lack of knowledge walking hand in hand together with disdain and ignorance feeding scepticism in this domain. Nicolas Sarkozy wanted great effort to be invested and to communicate effectively on the few months of responsibility France holds as head of the European Council. All to his merit! However the difficult task he faces should not be underestimated. The files that are already lying on the tables of the Council of Ministers of the Union are complicated. It will require enormous commitment and skill to settle all of them.
But the Irish refusal to ratify the Lisbon Treaty also pushes politics to the top of the list of priorities. In the unending debate on the institutions this final obstacle has to be overcome with patience and determination. The continent's unity has been approved by the people as the greatest step forward in the last century. The Union's policies have been more a means to catalyse the fear and crystallise the discontent that cannot be expressed elsewhere. Whilst taking on board people's opinions, we need "courageous acts", real political drive and an ambitious solution to overcome this phenomenon. A more "political approach" suggested by France facilitates this quite transparently. It implies real action and also acts that push for greater unification in the future in areas in which States can clearly no longer act effectively alone.
The real meaning of the French Presidency is therefore to provide an approach and also an extremely political content to the directions and decisions taken by the Union. It is more than time we did this. We cannot be sure that all the Member States will want to do this. It will be up to those who want to move forwards to do so; they should not allow themselves to be hindered by the clan of "the Euro- shy", a group which France seems to have left behind. It will be worth our while to do this before the European elections in June 2009 which might be used as a popular ratification for new dynamism if the vote is politicised as it should be. They must really be European – ie transnational – with candidates of all nationalities on national lists, joint programmes for the major political groups from the European countries and even joint candidates for the main European positions whose name and ideas we will have gained knowledge of beforehand.
Politics are the beginning of democracy. Elections are the proof of democracy. Preparing the common good in transparency – under popular control – this is the role of democracy. It is possible in Europe. We still have to prove it.