Europe’s Promises Ring Hollow as Past Failures Haunt Summit

(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders gathering in Romania on Thursday put a brave face on the collective failure to deliver in key areas and renewed the bloc’s dedication to unity as preparations continue for the U.K.’s exit.

In the so-called Sibiu declaration, named after the Transylvanian city where they are meeting, leaders vowed to protect “democracy and the rule of law,” even as it’s unclear that they all have the same understanding of the concepts. Poland, Hungary and Romania are being accused of undermining democratic standards, while political hurdles in a sanctions process mean that their EU peers have so far been unable to force them back into line.

Europe’s Promises Ring Hollow as Past Failures Haunt Summit

Leaders also committed to “uphold and develop the rules-based international order,” according to the declaration. The vow comes just as the Iran nuclear deal -- a key international accord -- crumbles and the EU has failed to deliver on its pledge to help Tehran contend with reinstated U.S. sanctions.

“Because of the economic power of the U.S. and its ability to work with sanctions this deal is much less valuable without the U.S., despite our support of it,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on his way into the meeting. “There’s not much more we can do than once again commit ourselves to the deal.”

Other key elements of the international order, such as global commerce based on World Trade Organization rules and the Paris climate accord, are also struggling to survive Donald Trump’s onslaught, while the EU -- despite its economic clout -- has yet to come up with concrete ways to salvage them.

The 27 member states also pledged to “stay united, through thick and thin,” and “show each other solidarity in times of need.” Countries such as Italy and Greece have complained about not getting enough support from their partners on migration, while months of negotiations for a more equitable sharing of refugee flows haven’t come to fruition.

Leaders also promised to “provide the union with the means necessary to attain its objectives,” as negotiations about the bloc’s new trillion-euro budget have failed to make headway, amid disagreements between recipient and donor countries. They also pledged to deliver where it “matters the most,” despite their failure to reach consensus on an overhaul of corporate taxation and a levy on the European revenue of tech giants.

The challenges facing the EU will come to a head later this month, when a projected surge in support for populist parties in a bloc-wide legislative election will further complicate the decision-making process, and may hinder a swift agreement over top EU jobs.

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