EU presidency: the quiet candidates (II)

Philip Stephens of the Financial Times writes in so many words that the new president of the EU (Council) should be Tony Blair after all, instead of one of the lesser known candidates. This is not a time for “faceless competence”, he says, for Europe needs someone who is taken seriously by McCain/Obama/Clinton, Medvedev/Putin and Hu Jintao.

This leaves one wondering when was the last time Tony Blair was taken seriously by the American president – the “Yo, Blair” incident perhaps?

Unbearably Blairite in its arrogance is also the following passage:

[Juncker, Fogh Rasmussen and Ahern] are bright people. Small countries can produce brilliant politicians. Putting aside a personal prejudice against EU institutions being forever run by Luxembourgers, I am not quarrelling with these candidates’ competence. But it is no disrespect to say that none is exactly a household name. Their candidacies seem to speak instead to a deliberate paucity of ambition about Europe’s global role. How seriously would they be taken by John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Imagine the reception from Dmitry Medvedev when Mr Juncker turned up in Moscow to protest against his decision to turn off the gas. How much weight would these candidates carry even in Europe?

First of all, being unknown now is not exactly a problem that cannot be overcome: Hands up who (outside Illinois) knew Barack Obama before he decided to run for the US presidency.

Secondly, any future president meeting fellow world leaders will be speaking on behalf of the EU, not his home country. The size of the latter will not make much of a difference at this stage. Maybe it does during the appointment process or while EU countries are trying to forge a common position (which requires unanimity), but the precise point Stephens makes about Luxemburgers indicates that being from a small country may actually be an advantage then.

Of course Europe needs someone with stature, but what Stephens seems to forget is that it has to be the right kind of stature. Blair’s is tarnished not only by his handling of the Iraq war, but – more importantly – by his reputation of being all spin and no results for most except the first few of his ten years as Prime Minister. The British EU presidency in 2005 was, if not a failure (there was an agreement on the Financial Perspectives after all), at least a disappointment.

What matters in the end is that Europe’s future president has the personality, vision and above all the diplomatic skills to make a success of the job. I am afraid Tony Blair has proved to have none of these.

4 Responses to “EU presidency: the quiet candidates (II)”

  1. Five Demands Says:

    Why is the Council President, being muted as a de facto EU president, not a choice to be voted by the European people?
    Five demands for a democratic Europe:

  2. eulogist Says:

    Obviously, because this vote is not mentioned in the Treaty and because no one in his right mind is keen on re-opening the debate on its contents… :)

    I do agree with each of the five demands though. However, I do not see any mention of a directly elected Council President?

  3. Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    Campaigning for a directly elected Council president would imho be a better idea than the Five Demands, some of which are formulated as “should this”, “should that”, without indicating the means or path to get the demand realised…

  4. eulogist Says:

    On the other hand, most of the five demands could be realised within the new Treaty, if the political will was there. And most of them are IMO specific enough and would make a real difference with the present situation. Demand no. 1, for instance, is not even realised in present day Belgium…

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