The EU tightens the grip on the institutions in its core while leaving Central Europe behind. Equality and geographical balance are pretty words, but when it comes to making decisions, Western Europe seems to have little patience for “snivelling” Eastern neighbours who don’t tow the line.
That is undoubtedly the main message that will be taken out by citizens in the countries like Slovakia, Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic from the vote to relocate two EU agencies, which took place on Monday 20 November. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) are currently based in London, but have to be moved as a result of Brexit, which caused a fierce race between EU Member States to attract them to their national capital.
Given the supporting words of Commission President Juncker (who few months ago gave a reassuring speech in the sense that the EU is a Union “of equals”, where “its members, big or small, East or West, North or South,” would all be treated the same), there was a broadscale expectation that at least one of the two agencies will go to a Central European country. In fact, Slovakia and the Czech Republic cooperated in advance to support their respective bids – with Prague standing behind Bratislava’s effort to host EMA, while Bratislava advocated the Czech capital’s proposal to host EBA. Instead, Central Europe got snubbed and EMA will go to Amsterdam and EBA to Paris.
In practice, either Central European governments spell this injustice clearly and start to have a common position in the Council (and not just rhetorically, when speaking to domestic audience in national capitals), or this will worsen as Prague, Warsaw or Bratislava continue being sent against each other, as they scramble for small, individual concessions from Brussels.