Comment at end
18th November, 2009
According to Newsnight last night Mrs Rompuy calls her beloved “Rambo”. Er … right, Mrs R.
I have no idea if Cherie ever whispers to her other half, “Oh, James …”
But of the pictures conjured up by these comparisons, the latter seems more likely than the former, don’t you think?
Life is stranger than fiction, as we know. The Guardian article – “Who speaks for Europe? Criticism of ‘shambolic’ process to fill key jobs” – hardly fills one with confidence.
Van Rompuy, it seems, attended the Bilderberg session to audition for the European job, calling for a new system of levies to fund the EU and replace the perennial EU budget battles.
Like the Bilderberg meeting last week, Thursday night’s summit will also be behind closed doors, as the leaders haggle over the appointment. Officially, Van Rompuy is not a candidate. Nor is Tony Blair. Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister chairing the summit, hopes to whittle a long list of names down to one and swats aside notions of an open contest or an official field of declared contenders. You could not expect serving prime ministers such as Van Rompuy, said Reinfeldt, to send a “signal to the people of your country, I’m on my way to another job. On Monday I’m back again and I didn’t get it, but I still love you. Sorry.”
Others disagree, however, and the way the first big decisions of the Lisbon treaty are being handled is coming in for much criticism. Senior British officials, who do not expect Blair to get the job but have not abandoned all hope, describe the process as “shambolic”.
On Monday night in Brussels, the Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, told EU foreign policy chiefs that the union was blowing an opportunity “to operate with transparency and a readiness to bring the citizens of Europe closer to EU affairs”. The decisions “should be as transparent and democratic as possible”.
Other newish EU members from eastern Europe are also trying to undermine the culture of stitch-ups and horse-trading surrounding the appointment of the council president and also of Europe’s new or high representative for foreign and security policy, or foreign minister.
Estonia‘s president, Thomas Hendrik Ilves, contradicted Reinfeldt by openly declaring he was a contender. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Latvia‘s former president, also put her name forward and likened the decision-taking to the workings of Soviet politburos.
“This is the end of the Eurocracy doing it like this, electing one of their own in this manner. I don’t think they’ll be able to get away with this ever again,” said Denis MacShane, the Labour MP and former Europe minister.
Reinfeldt wants to table only one candidate for each of the two posts under discussion. But the Poles urged that a shortlist of foreign ministerial contenders be interviewed before the appointment is made. Amid the secrecy, there is much confusion. “I wouldn’t say it’s a complete mess, but there’s no agreement still,” admitted Cecilia Malmström, Sweden‘s Europe minister.
This lack of consensus is encouraging British hopes that Blair could still pull it off against the odds. But his chances look slim. “Too much has happened, too many people can’t stand him,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform thinktank.
Van Rompuy, by contrast, has upset no one in less than a year as Belgian prime minister. He is regarded as the common Franco-German candidate and Gordon Brown also rates and likes him.
The president and foreign minister jobs are the products of the Lisbon treaty, the reform blueprint just ratified, which is supposed to make the EU more coherent and let it speak to the rest of the world with one voice. It is also, supporters endlessly declare, supposed to make the EU more “democratic and transparent”. While there is little to fit those criteria in the way the two jobs are being decided, the European elite has boxed itself into a corner, limiting its room for manoeuvre.
The president is supposed to come from the centre-right, while the foreign minister belongs to the centre-left. If one is from a big country, the other should be from a small country. Gender balance? Voices are being raised that one of the jobs should go to a woman. There is little talk of talent or merit.
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, was the frontrunner for foreign minister and fitted the bill. The French and Germans would have supported him. Ten days ago at a Fabian Society meeting in London, though, Miliband emerged seething with anger from a meeting with Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the Danish head of the European socialists, who told him that they would never support Blair for president. Miliband told Rasmussen he did not want the job.
Rasmussen and his colleagues have now nominated the former Italian prime minister and foreign minister Massimo D’Alema for the foreign minister role. But another former Italian prime minister said D’Alema would not be able to chair a meeting in English. His politics are criticised by some as too anti-American and anti-Israeli. His support base looks feeble.
European governments have spent eight exhausting years labouring to get the Lisbon treaty up and running. Now that they finally have it, their problem is agreeing what to do with it. Read more at The Guardian
A famous school – Fettes College, Edinburgh.
Picture above from The Mail – Fettes College’s most famous former student – Blair the basketball player.
Tags: Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, EU President, Fettes College Edinburgh, image Tony Blair as James Bond, image Von Rompuy as Rambo, James Bond, Rambo, Tony Blair, Tony Blair basketball team