Saturday, 9 January 2010

Mr Bildt went to Madrid

Our blog post Mr Bildt goes to Madrid (8 January 2010) tried to show that the presidency of the Council of the European is – and should be – more restricted under the Lisbon Treaty (despite the fact that Sweden marketed its presidency of the Council as that of the European Union, which went beyond even the previous Treaty of Nice).

We now have the short speech Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt gave as part of the festivities kicking off the Spanish presidency in Madrid yesterday.

Although Bildt still spoke of the Swedish presidency of the European Union, he was clear in underlining the new roles created by the Treaty of Lisbon, which are: the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, the high representative Catherine Ashton and the presidency of the Council configurations other than the foreign affairs Council taken over by Spain.

Bildt’s succinct reminders of the need for the European Union and of the challenges ahead are worth reading.

From Madrid

For comparison, the Spanish EU Council presidency website used the following headline to describe the ceremony: Sweden passes the baton on to Spain at the beginning of a “new era” (8 January 2010). The first paragraph was telling, as well (emphasis mine):

The Swedish minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, today formally handed on the baton of the rotating Presidency of the EU to the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at an inaugural gala at which both spoke of the decisive moment which Europe is going through and the need to live up to the expectations which it raises.

The rest of the press release was hardly more illuminating as to the new role of the Council presidency, despite an oblique reference to the Lisbon Treaty and later the new leadership mentioned on the last two lines.

Spain had to start planning its Council presidency long before anyone knew for sure, if the Lisbon Treaty is going to enter into force. Planned big events are hard to cancel, but the speeches and press releases of the Spanish government fell short of educating the public.

Other political news of the day can be found in: Rodríguez Zapatero advocates strengthening the economic union; Press conference of Zapatero, Van Rompuy and Barroso.

(For some reason the front page headline What is going to happen again features the depressing: No hay eventos pendientes.)

New start by Belgium?

The next Council presidency goes to Belgium, so the handing over will take place in Brussels, one would think. That could be the start of a tradition adapted to the new realities.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Kosmopolito describes itself as the blog with a European perspective. It is written by Kosmopolit and a small team. Kosmopolito is listed among the now more than 500 great euroblogs on multilingual, a useful one-stop-shop for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs, i.a. politics, policies, economics, finance and law.