What do OTHER Europeans think of the new top EU post-holders? Not a lot.

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    21st November, 2009

    ‘ROMPUY IS BARELY A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD’

    (Quite true. Mrs Rompuy calls him “Rambo”! Pfft … if only!)

    Since we tend to be a little parochial here in Britain we haven’ t noticed, or have not been informed, whichever comes first,  what fellow Europeans think of Rompuy and Ashton, or as Julie puts it – “Herman Who? van Rompuy President and Baroness Who? Ashton High Representative for Foreign Affairs.”

    First, a couple of tasters –

    “A strengthening of Europe would have demanded real super-stars – such as Tony Blair or Jean-Claude Juncker, internationally renowned personalities.   (Die Presse)

    “Now, instead of choosing a heavyweight figure like Tony Blair who can hold his own on the world stage, the EU have played safe by appointing a poetry-writing Belgian prime minister who’s barely even a household name in his own household. Herman Van Rompuy might have a funny surname, but that’s possibly the most interesting thing about him.” (Irish Herald)

    Dr Who & Ms Who?????

    If these thoughts  from our European cousins  surprises you, read on. That’s just for starters!

    Firstly, other Europeans are markedly unimpressed. Secondly, they seem to think a certain Tony Blair should have been chosen as EU President.

    If you think this does not tally with British blogs, websites, newspapers, let me explain why. One thing we should all understand about those words on our ‘puter screens – they are often biased ANTIS.  Anti this, anti-that … they often have a political viewpoint which they like to put forward as THE ‘TROOF’. The “anyone with any sense” argument. Be aware, and don’t accept their prejudices as factual. They seldom are.

    Such people are ‘OPINERS UNITED’, nothing more.

    My links and references below to mainland European publications and others are all due to Julie, and her  well-researched article here – ‘EU and international press agree: Rompuy and Ashton are Nobodies/Blair would have been better choice’

    Thank you, Julie.


    If HE feels down, how does he think WE feel?

    Opinion and articles below are from papers in Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Bulgaria, USA, Australia & UK. Happy campers, aren’t they?


    Italy

    1) Ma non bisogna dimenticare che Sarkozy era stato il più grande sponsor di Tony Blair, una candidatura lentamente ma costantemente distrutta proprio da Merkel. Van Rompuy inoltre significa trionfo dell’asse Berlino-Parigi per almeno altri tre motivi: garantisce un freno all’ingresso della Turchia (come vogliono Merkel e Sarkozy), apre le porte alla conquista da parte di Berlino della guida della Bce (in scadenza tra due anni) e a quella di Parigi dell’agognato commissario al mercato interno e ai servizi finanziari.

    Translation

    But don’t forget that Sarkozy was the greatest supporter of Tony Blair’s candidacy, slowly and constantly destroyed by Merkel. Furthermore Van Rompuy  nomination means a triumph for the Berlin-Paris axis for at least three reasons: It guarantees that Turkey will stay out of the EU (what Merkel and Sarkozy want), it opens the doors for the Bce (in expiration for two years) and ensure Paris can nominate the Commissioner for the internal market and financial service. Loccidentale

    2) UE: VAN ROMPUY, SOLO 12% EUROPEI SA CHI E’

    Secondo un’agenzia di sondaggio belga Proximity Panels infatti solo il 12% dei cittadini del Vecchio Continente sapeva fino a ieri sera chi fosse Herman Van Rompuy, contro la fama del 70% del suo concorrente Tony Blair. Dal sondaggio Blair risulta anche il candidato che gli europei piu’ volevano. Uno su tre infatti erano fino alla fine convinti che l’ex premier britannico avrebbe fatto il miglior lavoro contro il 5% a favore di Van Rompuy, traducibile con solo 1 cittadino su 20. .

    Translation: EU: Only 12% of Europeans know van Rompuy

    According to Belgian agency Proximity Panels, until yesterday, only 12% of European citizens knew who Herman van Rompuy is, in contrast to his rival Tony Blair at 70%. The survey also indicated that Blair was the one Europeans wanted. In fact, one in three were convinced that the former British Prime Minister would have been better for the job, in contrast to 5% in favour of van Rompuy.(Agi)


    Netherlands

    1) Europese Unie vernedert Tony Blair

    Blair geniet wereldfaam. Hij kan de telefoon nemen en als gelijke met de groten der aarde praten. Hij kan – spreekwoordelijk – het verkeer in Peking doen stoppen. Veel van dat soort figuren zijn er in de EU niet voorhanden.

    Translation: European Union humiliates Tony Blair

    Blair enjoys international fame. He can take the phone and talk to the other big players. He is –literally speaking, capable of stopping the traffic in Peking. Not many people of his character are available in the EU. (Standaard.)


    Germany

    1) Das no-name Signal

    Die Belgier kennen Herman Van Rompuy, die Nicht-Belgier nicht. Baroness Ashton kennen nicht mal die Briten. Das ist das neue Spitzen-Tandem der EU. (..) Mehr No Name geht nicht. Man muss kein Fan des gescheiterten Kandidaten Tony Blair sein, um das zu bedauern.

    Translation: The no-name signal

    The Belgians don’t know Herman van Rompuy, the non-Belgians neither. Not even the Brits know Baroness Ashton. This is the new top-tandem of the EU. More no-name is impossible. You don’t have to be a fan of the failed candidate Tony Blair to regret that. (Der Westen)

    2) EU – Provinz und Unerfahrenheit bevorzugt

    Die Vertragswirklichkeit, (…) heißt plötzlich Ashton und Van Rompuy. Auf starke Bewerber wie Luxemburgs Claude Junker oder den britischen Ex-Premier Tony Blair, die in ihrer Person eine europäische Größe seit langem darstellen, muss dieses Europa verzichten.

    Even Jean-Claude Juncker is a far better recognised name, if only in Europe.

    Translation: EU- Province and inexperience preferred

    The reality of the treaty is suddenly called Ashton and van Rompuy. The Europeans had to spare strong candidates such as Luxembourg’s Jean Claude Juncker or Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who have personalised European greatness for a long time. (Die Welt)

    3) Skepsis in Washington und Ankara

    Wer in den USA angesichts der aktuellen eigenen Schwäche einen starken Partner in Europa wünscht, hatte eher auf Spitzenpersonal vom Kaliber eines Tony Blair gehofft. Dann wäre die neue EU-Führung in Washington womöglich sogar ernst genommen worden.

    Translation: Skepticism Washington and Ankara

    Who, in the light of own weakness, wished for a strong European partner in Americ, hoped for a top candidate such as Tony Blair. Then, the new EU leadership would probably have been taken seriously in Washington. (FR-online)

    4) Diese Nobodys sollen Europa führen: Brüssel blamiert sich mit der Wahl von Ashton und van Rompuy

    Annähernd 500 Millionen Menschen leben in der Europäischen Union. Mehr als 490 Millionen kennen ihren neuen „EU-Präsidenten“, den belgischen Premier Herman van Rompuy, nicht. Und wer von der britischen EU-Kommissarin Catherine Ashton schon einmal Notiz genommen hat, gehört entweder zu den intimen Kennern der Wirrungen im britischen Oberhaus oder der Außenhandelspolitik der Brüsseler EU-Zentrale.

    (…)

    Aber Politiker mit internationalem Ruf haben eben Kritiker. Nur No-Names haben keine.

    Tony Blair war so einer. Doch der britische Ex-Premier fiel durch. Passte nicht in den Proporz aus Groß/Klein, Nord/Süd, Schwarz/Rot, Frau/Mann und was noch nicht alles.

    Translation: These Nobodies are suppose to lead Europe: Brussels disgraces onself with election of Ashton and Rompuy

    About 500 million people live in the European Union. More than 490 million don’t know their new EU-President, the Belgian Herman van Rompuy. And who ever heard of the British EU Commossioner Catherine Ashton before, is either an intimate expert of the British upper house or of the EU External Trade Commission in Brussels.

    (..)

    But world-wide known politicians have critics. Just no-names don’t.

    Tony Blair was such a politician. But the former British Prime Minister failed. He did not fit into the pattern Big/Small, North/South, Black/Red, Woman/Man and whatever. (Bild)

    [Oh my, even the Bild sees the fatal mistake. Evidence of incapacity Mrs. Merkel]


    Austria

    Tony Blair at a West Bank/Israel crossing he opened last week.

    1) Ein seltsames Paar für Europa

    Die Postenbesetzung beim EU-Gipfel ist klar ein Erfolg für die Länder, nicht für ein stärkeres Europa. Dazu hätte es echter „Superstars” bedurft – wie Tony Blair oder Jean-Claude Juncker, die auch international etwas gelten. Dem neuen „seltsamen Paar von Europa” ist zu wünschen, dass es trotzdem aus dem Schatten der Regierungen treten wird können.

    Translation: An odd pair for Europe

    The appointments (of Hermann van Rompuy and Catharine Ashton) is a clear victory for the national governments, not for a stronger Europe. A strengthening of Europe would have demanded real super-stars – such as Tony Blair or Jean-Claude Juncker, internationally renowned personalities. One can only hope the new “odd couple” of Europe will manage to step out from under the heavy shadow of the governments.”   (Die Presse)

    2) Neues EU-Duo löst wenig Begeisterung aus: Kritik aus Polen, Slowenien und Slowakei

    “Das ist eine wenig ambitionierte Entscheidung”, sagte etwa der Pole Donald Tusk. Die EU sei offenbar noch nicht bereit für politische Führer eines großen Formats. “Die EU hat eine Gelegenheit verpasst, einen starken europäischen Führer zu ernennen”, meinte auch der slowenische Premier Borut Pahor. Sein slowakischer Kollege Robert Fico erklärte, mehrere EU-Regierungschefs hätten eine “weltweit bekannte Person” wie den Briten Tony Blair oder Luxemburgs Premier Jean-Claude Juncker als neuen Ratspräsidenten erwartet.

    Translation: New EU duo evokes little enthusiams: Critique from Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia

    “It is a little ambitious decision“, said the Pole Donals tusk. Obviously the EU is not ready yet for a heavyweight political leader. “The EU missed the chance to elect a great European leader”, agreed the Slovenian Premier Borut Pahor. His Slovakian colleague Robert Fico explained many EU heads of states had expected a “world-wide known person” as EU President such as Tony Blair or Jean Claude Juncker  (Der Standart)

    3) Enttäuschung über Herrn Nichts und Frau Niemand

    Barrosos Vorgänger an der EU-Kommissionsspitze Prodi zeigte sich erschüttert vom Resultat des Personalpokers: “Catherine Ashton wurde gewählt? Wer ist das? Eine Baronin? Ich kenne sie nicht. Es ist unglaublich, ich bin schockiert“.

    (…)

    Erst kurz vor dem Gipfel ließ der britische Premier Gordon Brown seinen bisherigen Favoriten für den Ratspräsidenten, Amtsvorgänger Tony Blair, fallen. Fragt sich nur, wie die neuen EU-Leichtgewichte(…) in der Weltpolitik ernst genommen werden sollen.

    Translation: Disappointment over Mister Nothing and Misses Nobody

    Barossos predecessor, former EU Commission President Prodi was shaken by the result of the personal power: “Chathrine Ashton was elected? Who is that? A Baroness? I don’t know her. It is ridiculous, I am shocked”.

    Just shortly before the beginning of the summit, British Prime Minister Gordson Brown dropped his support for Tony Blair, his predecessor and his favourite candidate for the Presidency. The question is now how the lightweights shall gain significance in world politics. (Krone)

    Former EU Commission President Prodi says he is "shocked"!


    Poland

    1) Poland Greets New EU Leaders: Mr. Nothing to Say and Baroness No Experience

    Conservative daily Rzeczpospolita mocks the choice, saying the nominations are the victory of Germany and France and a defeat for Poland that wanted a more transparent selection process.

    “The nominations mean nothing good for Europe,” the daily says in an editorial. “Europe’s president is a man who will have nothing to say on the international stage, while the foreign minister is a woman who has no experience in diplomacy.” (Blogs.wsj.com)

    2) President Van Rompuy? Not in Poland

    I’m sure virtually every EU citizen who’s reading about this appointment is asking the question: Is this really our new president?

    In Poland, the anwer is “no.” Here he will be formally known not as Prezydent Van Rompuy, but as Przewodniczący Van Rompuy (a tonguebreaker, I know—try this: psheh-vod-neetch-ont-sy. Anyway, the meaning of the word is closer to “chairman”). (Blogs.wsj.com)

    [These are translations from an English site, since I don’t understand Polish]


    Euronews Spain

    1) Is Rompuy the right one?

    McNamara: Hay quien prefería una figura carismática como Tony Blair. El New York Times ha escrito un artículo extremadamente crítico sobre todo el proceso, diciendo que los europeos querían al alguien de un perfil más destacado, pero que al final han hecho lo contrario eligiendo al Primer Ministro belga

    Translation:

    McNamara: „Well, there are a lot of people who would have preferred a charismatic person- let’s say Tony Blair. The New York Times published an extremely critical article today about the whole process, saying that if the Europeans really want to play a significant part they achieved exactly the opposite with the election of the Belgium Prime Minster. (Euronews Spain)


    Ireland

    1) EU snub for Blair is bad news for Ireland

    Now, instead of choosing a heavyweight figure like Tony Blair who can hold his own on the world stage, the EU have played safe by appointing a poetry-writing Belgian prime minister who’s barely even a household name in his own household. Herman Van Rompuy might have a funny surname, but that’s possibly the most interesting thing about him. (Irish Herald)


    Bulgaria

    1) Herman who?… Baroness who?

    The Japanese government welcomed the fact that there had been “progress on the new EU structure” but said that it had “no view” on the new appointments. Off the record, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo said that the appointment of Tony Blair, would have been “interesting” because he was much better known in Japan.

    Russia, China and India had no comment at all. The appointments received no space or air time in the Indian media.(Focus-fen)


    America

    1) Europe job was too small for Tony Blair

    Faced with a choice for its new president between the traffic-stopping Tony Blair and a capable but little-known Belgian, the EU’s 27 leaders settled on Herman Van Rompuy, a man who would scarcely stop two mothers with strollers outside his own country.

    (..)

    The way things have turned out, he won’t be too sorry to have missed the Europe job. Those in the United States and elsewhere who were expecting a significant new figure on the world scene, carving a name for himself while punching the weight of Europe’s 500 million citizens, are going to be disappointed. In Van Rompuy, they are not going to see an EU president who eyeballs Vladimir Putin on energy security or cuffs Obama for not doing enough about climate change. (CNN)

    [There was not a lot of coverage in the American press. Same goes for China, Japan, Russia and India. I am not surprised though]

    Australia

    1) Europeans settle for efficiency over ego

    ‘It’s not a glamour team,” an EU diplomat told the BBC.

    The deal is seen as a low-risk strategy by its architects – as well as its critics – and represents a clear win for those who argued the need for a ”chairman” over a high-profile, symbolic figurehead, such as the former British prime minister Tony Blair. (Sidney Herald)


    Here follows some thoughts from the British press:

    UK

    1) Tony Blair will bounce back as usual

    Tony Blair’s embarrassment at being so publicly rebuffed by the EU 27 will not last long and he will bounce back as usual. Foreign secretary Hague’s difficulties will endure.

    If it is any consolation, Hague may be able to tweak the joke and revive it. Blair is a hard man to keep down; at 56 he still has a lot of puff in him and a bulging contacts book. He is more likely to land an important job somewhere than he is to be put on trial for alleged war crimes over Iraq, though it does not seem likely that it will be as EU foreign minister – part of the endgame gossip in Brussels. (The Guardian)

    2) Why ‘nonentities’ is a fair description of Mr Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton

    A groan of disappointment went up from the commentariat of old Europe today. After the long and painful birth of the Lisbon treaty, the Union has, they say, anointed nonentities to its two new supremo posts.

    The word may be unkind for Herman van Rompuy, the Belgian who has become first President of the European Council, and Baroness Ashton of Upholland, its first “Foreign Minister”. But it is fair if you subscribed to the pitch that was sold to the people. (The Times)

    3) Those EU appointments

    Daniel Finkelstein and I did a video clip, which will be somewhere on this site, this morning. We disagree markedly on European issues, but we share dismay at these appointments. Daniel’s view, which makes no sense at all to me, was that Tony Blair ought not to be President of the European Council because he would be highly effective. That would be a route to increasing the influence of the EU in foreign policy, which Daniel does not wish to see. I do want that, and it’s obvious that Blair would have given the institution real clout on the international stage.

    The great irony of the Eurosceptic opposition to Blair as President is that his appointment would have put a brake on some of the more fanciful federalist schemes, which Mr Van Rompuy espouses. This is a bad day for the credibility of the EU, and as a strong supporter of the institution I regret it. (The Times)

    4) Europe risking irrelevance as world moves on

    As discussions of these arrangements proceeded, it became clear most governments preferred a low-profile, consensus-building chairman as president rather than a forceful, policy-setting chief executive. This preference has now been expressed in the choice of Mr Van Rompuy instead of Mr Blair.

    But it hardly seems possible that Mr Van Rompuy will parley on equal terms with the likes of Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, the US and Chinese presidents. Not only is his experience too limited, not only are the frames of reference for his job too narrowly drawn, but also he will have to share the stage with Mr Barroso and Lady Ashton. (Financial Times)

    5) The new EU chiefs: Rompuy-pumpy and Cathy Who?

    For weeks rumors swirled that the jobs would go to high-profile candidates like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and current Foreign Secretary David Miliband, politicians who could give the EU greater diplomatic clout on issues such as climate change, terrorism and trade.

    Instead, European leaders on Thursday chose Ashton and van Rompuy, an unassuming man nicknamed “Rompuy-pumpy” by British tabloids. He is best known for penning Flemish-language haikus, which he publishes on a blog.(AP )


    America

    It WAS time. Only some in Europe didn't notice.

    1) Europe job was too small for Tony Blair

    Faced with a choice for its new president between the traffic-stopping Tony Blair and a capable but little-known Belgian, the EU’s 27 leaders settled on Herman Van Rompuy, a man who would scarcely stop two mothers with strollers outside his own country.

    (..)

    The way things have turned out, he won’t be too sorry to have missed the Europe job. Those in the United States and elsewhere who were expecting a significant new figure on the world scene, carving a name for himself while punching the weight of Europe’s 500 million citizens, are going to be disappointed. In Van Rompuy, they are not going to see an EU president who eyeballs Vladimir Putin on energy security or cuffs Obama for not doing enough about climate change. (CNN)

    [There was not a lot of coverage in the American press. Same goes for China, Japan, Russia and India. I am not surprised though]

    2) Herman Van … who?

    The European Union, half-a-billion strong and the world’s largest economy, considers itself an international power and would like to be recognized as one, equal to the United States, India and China.

    That makes this week’s selection of Herman Van Rompuy as Europe’s first president a puzzling one. Mr. Van Rompuy, the Belgian Prime Minister, is virtually unknown, and will do nothing to raise the continent’s international profile. Indeed, in his first press conference as Europe’s president-elect, he came across as grey, shy and retiring, promising to be “discreet” in carrying out his new responsibilities.

    (…)

    If Europe hopes to capture the world’s attention, it needs a strong, high-profile president. The ideal candidate was on hand in the person of Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, who would have brought prestige and influence to a vaguely-defined and little-understood post.

    The first president is expected to do much to define the job for successors, and Mr. Blair would have established a precedent for a vibrant, high-profile personality, instantly recognizable on the international stage. Better yet, he wanted the job badly and would have brought a dynamism Mr. Van Rompuy lacks.

    By choosing a quiet bureaucrat who can be counted on to rock no boats, Europe has signalled — yet again — that it prefers to function as a meek bureaucracy rather than a confident, united government. (NationalPost)


    Australia

    1) Europeans settle for efficiency over ego

    ‘It’s not a glamour team,” an EU diplomat told the BBC.

    The deal is seen as a low-risk strategy by its architects – as well as its critics – and represents a clear win for those who argued the need for a ”chairman” over a high-profile, symbolic figurehead, such as the former British prime minister Tony Blair. (Sidney Herald)


    RELATED

     

    Blair said to be ‘happy to be out of EU race for Europe job’

    Excerpt:

    Although Mr Blair is said to believe he has “one more big job” in him, friends denied he would seek a role at another international body such as the United Nations or the World Bank.

    But his biographer Anthony Seldon believes Mr Blair may yet return to public office. Writing in Prospect magazine, he said: “Losing the presidency will only whet his appetite further for another big international role. If anything he is more hungry for influence than in 2007.”

    Seldon said Mr Blair believes the EU needs a “big hitter,” such as himself, to reach its potential.

    “He will surely be disappointed that many of his friends in Europe, and a number of fellow countrymen, didn’t do more for his cause. He has an especially jaundiced view of the Conservatives’ tribalism in not backing him.”


    My thoughts:

     

    So, he’s happy to be “out of the race”.  But I don’t think that means that he is happy to be out of the job. This was a terrible decision and one which may have dreadful consequences, and not just for Europeans.

    "A hard act to follow", Mr Obama whispered to his wife at a Breakfast Prayer meeting earlier this year. Yep, we know.

    Sorry, Mr Obama. Who’re you gonna call – Cr*p Busters!

    Mr Obama, can I introduce you to ... er... hang on a minute ... erm ... it's coming to me ... Mr ... er ... Belgium.




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    3 Responses to “What do OTHER Europeans think of the new top EU post-holders? Not a lot.”

    1. universallawyer Says:

      The Reason Junckers or Bruton never got the job is that they are not dull enough.

    2. So did the earth move for YOU, Lord Weidenfeld, in 2009? « Tony Blair Says:

      […] In reality Lord Weidenfeld knows that it was the “fault” of many dark actors in the political world, not least of which was the Conservative party in Britain. Combined with Sarkozy and Merkel they ensured that Europe sinks without trace under Mr Whatsisaname and Ms Who? […]

    3. Germany: Buying ‘The Ghost’ & Selling Blair & the EU « Tony Blair Says:

      […] a bloody profit-searching cheek. And meanwhile we Europeans have to put up with Mr Whatsisname as EU Council […]

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