As the European Union faces what is arguably the deepest crisis in its 55-year history, are its leaders fit for purpose?

Statesmen of the stature of De Gasperi, Adenauer, Churchill, Schuman and Monnet forged a united Europe from the ruins of the Second World War. How do today’s politicians match up? Are national leaders capable of confronting the challenge of saving Europe’s economy and overcoming the EU’s growing political divisions? Or are they too bound up with national concerns and the impact of the next opinion poll to take on Europe’s big picture problems?

At the State of Europe conference organised by Friends of Europe in Brussels recently, we asked members of the European Parliament to respond to this question Debating Europe commenter Paul:

Why don’t we have politicians of the stature we had in the 1940s, who understand the gravity of the times?

In response, Finnish Green MEP Tarja Cronberg suggested the time for the charismatic strongman may be past:

Tarja Cronberg said times are different. In mature democracies, she said, it is important for everybody to take their responsibilities and work together with less need to rely on strong leaders.

British Conservative MEP James Elles, agreed that Europe is facing its biggest test since the 1940s, but he wondered whether the modern media environment had changed citizens’ perceptions of political greatness.

James Elles said Europe faces substantial problems to remain forward looking and prosperous over the coming years. In particular, European leaders have to adapt policies to cope with the changing global context and the rising power of Asia. Europe can’t use the policies of the past to handle the challenges of the future, he concluded.

What do YOU think? How do Merkel, Monti, Hollande and co. compare to statesmen of the past? Would the leaders of previous decades stand up to modern media scrutiny? Does the looming squabble over the share-out of the EU budget show leaders are incapable of looking beyond narrow national interests? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

28 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    The official U.S and British covert support of the Turkish military occupation in Cyprus has resulted in 1,033,000 deaths in Iraq as a result of the Iraq conflict. A total of 4,486 U.S. soldiers were officially declared killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2012,(how many thousands more have not being declared by the US military ) along with thousands more US and British military personnel , physically crippled for life, sacrificed by the Bush Republican Administration and the US military to maintain the Turkish military occupation in Cyprus. TREACHERY in the Bush Republican Administration against the American people. The only benefit to come out of this is INDEPENDENCE for KURDISTAN very very soon.

  2. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    The Countries of Europe are not the leadership democracies,in the contrary they are the system and profession democracies.Therefore the problem is not related the leadership. The problem is related deontology and ethic and the solution is not easy at all.For example i had two lawsuit in Second Section of ECHR application number 23064/08 and they were about approximately 500.000 EUR in value my attorneyship fees. They were rejected exactly as unjust according to Protocol No. 14 by single judge who Guido Raimondi.After soon Raimondi was elected Vice President for ECHR, despite of a new and inexperienced judge in ECHR.

  3. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Not puppets yet but if Europe has not transparency and accountability in every legal job, they will be a puppet soon. ? went to Strasbourg on August 2012, why my cases rejected to inspect.But ? even did not get into the building of ECHR moreover despite of ?’m a lawyer for twenty-four years. Only ? was called like a prison how on behind of bold glass the telephone where front of the door of ECHR by a staff who did not want to say the name of himself. ? did not understand why there is this secrecy and ? thought Catholic Opus Dei methods or the Omerta Rule of Mafia. ? was frustrated by European.

  4. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I think it is obvious that we do not have leadership in Europe anymore. If we did, we would not be where we are right now. They just follow the laws that those who finance their campaigns oblige them to follow, and because we have no real democracy in Europe rather an aristocracy we have no say in what is going on.

    All this “inter-governmentalism” behind closed doors decisions despite the public uproar, does not really remind me of any democratic institution. Both in national and European level. Our leaders are there to do business and increase the GDP or the income of the investors.

    They have absolutely no vision for the future they care not for the culture, heritage, way of life or benefit of the citizens of Europe, rather they promote policies that benefit the rich global capitalist elite. It shows that all decisions are taken in those absolutely illegal G-8, G-7, G-20 summits that we never have a chance to hear what is being debated or decided for us.

    It is all business and money. At least back in the 40s or 50s, after WW2 the leaders have lived the terror and devastation of their actions and they gained a vision. Our leaders to day they have studied in Harvard or other American Universities and they have only one care in the mind, what they taught them in those universities.

    How to make profit and increase your country’s GDP. The reality escapes them. They live in a different world than ours… I think it is time for a political shake up in Europe..A pan-European one!

  5. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    Unfortunately, it seems we are in short supply of the right leaders at this critical moment in time. If a name must fall only Merkel and Van Rompuy have the capacity to lead, because they have a vision. The issue is rather that nobody seems to be willing to be led and that’s a pity. Only with a European unity will we be accepted as a partner in the next world’s configuration.

  6. avatar

    There is no way out of this crisis. It is chronic. The next 20-30 years will be very difficult. The sooner the Europeans and their leaders understand it better. Need for transparency and new rules in everything and solidarity. The effects and the defects of globalization can not be remedied with left or right policies. We need pragmatism and humanity.

  7. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    ? can not comprehend why some people hope a solution from like Merkel and Van Rompuy leaders, despite of they are a head responsible from that crisis together with Sarkozy. The crisis was occurred by banks, while they breached the base rules of bankness, deontology and ethic rules

  8. avatar

    “Bound up with national concerns”? This is a ridiculous statement. Take, for example, Frau Merkel: She is luring the Germans into an arrangement of tight austerity where at the same time the Germans are expected to pay for their own exports (Target 2, ESM). Already now it is difficult to imagine that, for example, Greece will ever be able to balance what it imported from Germany in recent years.

    If EU leaders are bound up with anything, then it seems, with global financial interests.
    Europe today, it seems, has ened up in the hands of executers of global financial interests and lofty leftist cultural ideas.

  9. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis has been arrested for publicly exposing the Greek tax evaders in the public domain, which have brought the Greek economy to its knees. This man is innocent. This is an international disgrace for Greece and its democracy. Chase all the thieves who have destroyed the Greek economy. Bring back all the stolen money. France, the IMF , The European Court of Justice and the European Union must intervene immediately and stop this tragedy in justice. Free Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis .

  10. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    Maro…the powers that be realy Hate having their corruption exposed……especially the eu.

  11. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Unfortunately we have to complain mostly a burglar an other burglar in democracies. Democracy is a election how you was given between the candidates by uncleanlies usually. ?f We don’t implement deontology and ethic rules as far too solid in all professions, we will cut our roots and we will go on decaying as routin.

  12. avatar
    catherine benning

    If Europe had the leaders it needed, the continent would not be in this globalised mess. They would have been smart enough to see the outcome of such alliances and stayed out of the mire that is ruining our lives. They were too easily tempted by the idea of fast bucks and swallowed the idea of boom and bust even though they were fully aware of the history of that dangerous game.

    Well now, the bust is so big they cannot work out where to go from here. And the demise of the European people looks ever more likely by the day. All paid for by the tax payers here.

    It is so bad in the UK our government are paying bonuses to hospitals by the more deaths they induce. And no I am not kidding. Read all about it.


    Additionally our GP’s are being asked to choose one in every hundred people as a selection for death over the next year.


    How the EU is allowing Britain to get away with this chilling death cull of human beings in our European country is an enigma.

    But additionally they are allowing secret courts in the UK to use rendition of people to African countries for the purpose of torture and not a word is spoken in their defence.


    If they get away with this, it won’t be long before they are doing it to anyone of us. Read all about it folks, it is happening right here today so remember this and what happened under Hitler when he was left to continue with his crimes against humanity.

    This is why the UK wants out of the EU so they can remove the Human Rights Act. And join their US friends in open torture. The UK government is planning to have US private prison companies like these open their incarceration facilities right here in the UK. And we are extraditing people to the US regularly as I write.


    And what Naomi Wolf is telling the world.


    So, does this indicate Europe has the right leaders for a modern planet?

  13. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    The Arrested Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis have been published the list of 2053 Greeks how per of them have money over one billion Euros in the banks of Switzerland. He arrested due to infringe of secrecy of private life. But that situation is unjust exactly, whilst Greece had ruined as economical.

  14. avatar
    Bill Zafeiropoulos

    Again we are away from the subject: the answer to the question is we have no real European leadership. We have today no leaders like Berlusconi, Mitterand or de Gaulle . We need a new political system so we can have a president elected directly from European people. Who speaks and decides for Europe now? Van Rompuy? Or Baroso? Maybe Merkel does, but she is not elected by all Europe ..

  15. avatar
    Evelyn Moraes E Castro

    Actuellement UE n’a pas un Lider qui soit pour les vrais valeurs et objectifs de l’UE. Aujourd’hui les points-clefs de UE sont mins par des obeissants pour disseminer les mesures qui permettront de construire un march economique transatlantique, trs mauvais pour l’Europe et l’Euro.

  16. avatar
    Yareli Hastings

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