What is disturbing about the campaign of Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, Brian Cowen, David Miliband and their entourages to appoint Tony Blair the first President of the European Council?
They have evoked visions of a “traffic-stopping” pair of US and Chinese leaders, but neither they nor their supporting choruses, which include parts of the British press, have addressed the issues posed by the legal base.
Politics is a question of will, but not solely. The rule of law sets the framework for the voluntary acts.
I can’t remember even one Blair supporter, who has seriously discussed the limits of job description, as set by the Lisbon Treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty outlines the tasks of the President of the European Council, and the starting point of Article 15(6) TEU is a facilitator of the work, with international representational duties limited and added almost as an afterthought:
6. The President of the European Council:
(a) shall chair it and drive forward its work;
(b) shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;
(c) shall endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;
(d) shall present a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council.
The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The President of the European Council shall not hold a national office.
The Lisbon Treaty has outlined the role of a chairman. It is no small challenge to help the EU find the unified voice, with which it should be able to speak on matters of common concern.
Turning the President of the European Council into a “President of Europe”, is to subvert the Lisbon Treaty, without the democratic mandate a larger role clearly calls for.
Our leaders should stop well short of plotting a new 18 Brumaire (Wikipedia), the coup d’état which launched Napoleon on his way to dictatorship.
Their job description is distorted, it lacks democratic legitimacy and the failed European Tony Blair is the wrong person do the consensus building needed and to project the EU’s values among citizens and in the world.
Before Nicolas Sarkozy sits down for dinner this evening to persuade Angela Merkel, he should read the Telos blog post by Zaki Laïdi “Pourquoi il faut dire non à Blair” (27 October 2009).
We European citizens do not need splendour without substance, but the hard slog to reach European consensus on important issues, despite the weaknesses of the Lisbon Treaty.
I am all for a more effective European Union, but real powers require real democracy.