Edward Firoux: The Man Behind Europolis
Examining the Legacy of Europe's Outgoing Speaker
January 20th, 2020
Profile by Ezra Archer
It’s official. Speaker Edward Firoux has officially stepped down as the Chairperson of the European Progressive Alliance, handing the reigns of the eurogroup to Councillor Poppy Carlton-Romanov of Icholasen, who will take over as interim Chairperson until a new Chairperson of the eurogroup is elected. The announcement was made at an EPA event in Europolis, where the Speaker delivered his parting remarks to the eurogroup's faithful. Speaker Firoux has also called an election for a new Council Speaker, and has announced that he will step down as Inquista’s Councillor to the European Union once a new Council Speaker has been elected. Speaker Firoux is now quickly shifting his remaining political responsibilities from Europolis to Saint Dominico.
A European Councillor since 2013, and Chairman of the European Progressive Alliance since 2015, Speaker Firoux is the longest-serving European Councillor in European history, and has served as the leader of the most successful eurogroup in European history. The Speaker's shift from European to Inquistan politics will more than likely be met with intensely partisan and mixed reactions. When Firoux eventually vacates his European offices, the Speaker will leave behind both a void and a legacy.
For better or worse, Firoux has become the face and avatar of the European Council, and the name 'Firoux' has become synonymous with Europolis (a handsome face, some might say). This association has often, especially in recent years, made the Speaker the target of frequent attacks and criticisms. The Speaker has increasingly embraced the mantle of his reputation - whether it be positive or negative - and, when recently asked to comment on his ability to divide opinions, the Speaker remarked that "I say a lot, I do a lot, I act a lot, and ultimately, that’s what happens when you've passed the most legislation in the European Council. You are bound to divide opinions. It’s also what happens when you’re unafraid to legislate and be vocal voice on sensitive issues, and are also willing to call out and challenge nonsense."
Speaker Firoux has authored or co-authored 11 pieces of legislation which still remain part of the European Union's Acquis Communautaire, has passed 5 amendments to the Constitution of the European Union, and has passed 9 amendments to existing laws or other successful miscellaneous motions. The Speaker has successfully written and passed more legislation than any other European Councillor by quite a distance, and has currently authored or co-authored more legislation than all of his current incumbent Council colleagues combined in their entirety. Thus, when the Speaker talks of acting and not just talking, he means it. However, as the Speaker himself recognises, it's not his keenness to legislate that divides opinion, it's what he decides to legislates on: the Speaker isn't afraid to legislate on sensitive issues.
The Speaker's own authorship and legislative record tends to focus on three primary things: human rights, environmental justice, and a stronger European Union. He has authored or co-authored legislation concerning gay marriage rights, expanded rights for the disabled, an expanded and enforceable Declaration of Human Rights in the European Constitution, a ban on capital punishment and torture, internet neutrality, the right to clean and safe drinking water, clean ocean protections, the European Health Organization, anti-corruption and anti-bribery regulations within the European Council, Council procedure regulations, major reforms to the European Commission, and other pieces of miscellaneous legislation, such as the European Order of Merit. While aspects of this record have certainly been controversial, especially his efforts for equal marriage rights and the ban on capital punishment, his most controversial pieces of legislation have proven to be his efforts to sustain a democratically-elected European Council, and his now-repealed effort to place a European-wide moratorium on nuclear weapons production.
For some, the Speaker's legislative work has divulged too much power away from the member states, and has centralised and transferred too much of that power to Europolis. Conversely, and sometimes paradoxically, the Speaker has garnered criticisms within the more progressive and activist circles of the European Union, who allege that the EPA leader is ‘too centrist’. The Speaker has generally shrugged off these latter claims, pointing to his legislative record, in which you'd likely be hard-pressed to find a councillor with a more accomplished record in terms of progressive pieces of legislation actually written and passed, and in terms of environmental justice and human rights, the Speaker's legislative record is almost unmatched (no other Councillor has proposed anything on environmental issues other than Firoux since 2014). The Speaker himself pins these criticisms on the fact that he has purposely worked to cultivate an image as a coalition-builder and pragmatist, which he believes has benefited him in building broad cross-partisan support to pass meaningful pieces of legislation, and to grow a large big-tent eurogroup, both of which he has successfully done.
The Speaker’s attitude towards centralizing power in Europolis has, however, been a story of continuous evolution. When Firoux first entered the European Council in 2013, he quickly established himself as a bipartisan legislator who has been willing to collaborate and compromise on many issues, despite his particularly progressive leanings, with a goal-oriented mindset of “achieving somethings, which are better than achieving nothings". Firoux, who previously served as the ambassador of Inquista to Halsberg, was once described by the Councillor of Halsberg as the “compromiser-in-chief”. However, as the topic of nuclear proliferation came to forefront of European politics, Firoux became frustrated with continuous empty promises made by Europe's largest nuclear powers. Firoux then worked to pass his now-infamous moratorium on nuclear weapons production, which then sparked outrage from Europe's superpowers and nuclear-ambitious nations. Firoux later agreed to not campaign against or vocally oppose a repeal of the moratorium (although he still voted against its repeal), as long as nuclear states promised to finally make good on their intention to scale back their nuclear arsenals. The nuclear states agreed to a meeting, which then never properly materialized. Consequently, nuclear proliferation has since increased exponentially, and there are now more nuclear-armed states in the European Union than ever before. Since this renege, Firoux became noticeably imprinted with the idea that the European Union’s member states regularly fail to make key agreements or compromises outside of Europolis-led frameworks.
By 2015, Firoux cultivated a broad alliance of pro-European partisans, and united them under the European Progressive Alliance. Even in its early days, the EPA experienced great success in Commission elections, where their Chairperson's political and electoral shrewdness always lent itself well to his eurogroup. After pulling a string of back-to-back successes in Commission elections, the EPA was confronted by the then-burgeoning European Liberals, who attempted the block the confirmations of successfully elected EPA Commissioners. In a dramatic confirmation hearing, the Chairman of the European Liberals launched into a furious tirade against Eilidh Whiteford's Commissioners, who then all rejected taking up their offices en masse (including the then Premier-elect), and the councillors of their countries of origin, including Firoux, all took a hiatus from their work in Europolis.
During this hiatus, the European Liberals, and what remained of other councillors, embarked on a mass repeals of various human rights legislation, environmental protections (including the first Ocean Protection Act), and the repeal on European-wide marijuana legalization that has since become mythologised, among other things. After this swift wave of repeal motions, the European Union as a whole quickly fell into disarray, the European Council quickly ceased to operate or meet, the majority of European institutions ceased to function entirely, and virtually all multilateralism disintegrated as countries turned inward. This period is sometimes referred to as the Dark Age of the European Union, where activity in European international affairs came to a screeching halt.
After some time, Firoux and some his colleagues eventually took up their councillorship duties again. However, substantial damage had already been done to the European Union, and to Europe as a whole, which only further solidified Firoux’s strong beliefs that Europe truly needed Europolis in order to make progress as a united community, and that the European Council was the most effective vehicle for multilateralism. Firoux emerged from his sabbatical by pivoting to an even more pro-European tone, and he set his eyes on harnessing the role of Council Speakership to help rebuild the internal politics of Europolis. Despite continuous displays of bad faith, and no apologies or apparent feelings of remorse from the European Liberals, Firoux championed for his now-wife, Gisela Stuart, a member of the European Liberals, to become Premier, and to work together to rebuild the European Union. Firoux eventually became Speaker of the European Union in 2019, and upon his election, he became the first ever left-of-centre and pro-European Speaker in European Council history.
Naturally, the Speaker has sought to channel his enthusiasm to legislate and debate issues at the European-level. He also sought to inspire the same enthusiasm in other councillors, and sought to build their trust in an active Europolis. Thus, the Speaker’s approach to his office has been markedly different than those of his predecessors. Speaker Firoux has been very hands-on in his approach to his duties, often meeting one-on-one with his colleagues to discuss their Council proposals, to offer his own advice on their proposals before they make them, offer his own legislative edits, and to offer his own honest feedback on proposals. A large majority of legislation proposed under the Speaker’s term has come to his office desk before reaching the European Council, and a very few ideas make it onto the Council floor without being presented first to the Speaker personally. The Speaker has always been willing to give his advice and feedback to Councillors, and he has taken it upon himself to mentor many of them.
Some Councillors look to the Speaker for feedback and mentorship not because of his authority – being Speaker actually grants him a limited set of powers – but, as the Council’s most senior member, and its most active legislator, he’s established a demonstrative record of getting things done, especially in writing legislation. The Speaker, likewise, has been keen to offer his mentorship, so as to build an effective European Council. The Speaker’s allyship has transcended beyond the eurogroup that he leads, and has been extended across the political aisle to other eurogroups, and especially to non-affiliated and independent councillors, whom the Speaker has collaborated with to co-author legislation on several occasions. It’s unsurprising then, that during the Speaker’s tenure, 16 separate pieces of legislation have been added to the Acquis Communautaire, several Constituional amendments have been passed, and countless far-reaching other motions have been passed in the European Council. On two separate occasions, the European Council has made history in recent times, where the Council debated 5 separate pieces of legislation at once, which is also a new record.
More legislation has been passed in 2019 and 2020 than between 2018 and 2012.2020 alone accounts for more legislation passed than the previous 7 years altogether. The period between 2011 and 2013 had previously been known as a Golden Age of the European Union, with an active and robust European Council, and a strong European Commission. The European Council has in the last year alone superseded the levels of productivity of the Golden Age era, with Firoux’s European Council smashing through their record numbers of legislation with an exponentially higher new record. If the 2011-2013 era was considered the Golden Age, then Speaker Firoux’s tenure has perhaps overseen the Diamond Age of the European Council, which would be quite the feat in of itself, considering the fact that the European Council was essentially a dead institution only two years ago.
The European Council has not only passed a voluminous amount of legislation, but a lot of the legislation has been quite transformational, further expanding upon the EU’s institutions, strengthening human rights, environmental protections, and strengthening the values of the European Union itself, particularly in the face of sweeping discontent across the European Union. Naturally, these changes have not been without strong criticisms and deep worries of an ever-strong Europolis, and the Speaker’s enthusiasm to codify “European values” – a buzzword for democracy decision-making and a compressive view of human rights – into European institutions, has attracted a lot of recent criticism, even from his own eurogroup. When the Speaker is criticized for diverting too much power into Europolis, this is often where the criticisms lie. This is best exemplified by the Elected and Accountable Council Act, which the Speaker authored, passed and his since staunchly defended. The Act requires member states to hold elections to elect their European Council representatives.
Even perhaps more heavy-handedly, the European Council has in recent times issued the first ever Council-backed military intervention into another country, followed by a successful deployment of the European Relief Force. Both missions ended in relatively rapid success, a far-cry from the military intervention in Dromund Kass, for example, done outside of the framework of the EU bodies, and is still ongoing today.
As for the European Progressive Alliance, the eurogroup will have to, for the first time, exist in a post-Firoux Europolis. The EPA is a strong as ever, with more members than any other eurogroup, a series of Commission election-shutouts under its election belt, and seemingly unshakable bonds of unity and loyalty keeping the eurogroup steadfastly intact. Maintaining such eurogroup unity, despite the diversity of opinions, has been no easy feat, and Firoux’s successor will have their hands full with keeping their broad caucus of colleagues on the same page. Likewise, the EPA’s domination of European institutions will be under threat. After 2020’s final Commission election, Firoux indicated that he would no longer work to campaign for or elect EPA Commissioners, including in this upcoming Commissioner election. Previously, Firoux has played a central and integral part of the eurogroup’s strong campaign machine, with Firoux himself working as the campaign chair of many election campaigns undertaken by EPA commission candidates. The upcoming Commission election will be the EPA’s first test to see if it will sink or swim without its former eurogroup chairperson.
Thus, as the Speaker now reaches his retirement from European politics, he leaves Europe at a cross-roads. Europolis shall lose its most experienced public servant, its most experienced legislator, one of the European Union’s most fervent supporters, and it shall lose an unyielding European patriot. The European Council, and European Union as whole, is stronger than ever, with stronger institutions, with more European laws and regulations, and with commitments to ‘European values’ codified in law. Speaker Firoux has seemingly accomplished what he has always hoped to do: demonstrate that multilateralism at the European-level is far more successful through Europolis than outside of it. Politically, Firoux has re-built the pro-European movement in the European Union, not only leading the movement to electoral victory, but also their domination of the European Council. However, when the pendulum swings one way, naturally force will attempt to swing the pendulum the other way. With events like Anglexit on the horizon, has the European Union reached peak European unity, and will the European Union slowly undo itself again like it did four years ago?