Friday 30 October 2009

Lisbon Treaty vs Blair

Should the European Council have a president as outlined in the Lisbon Treaty, or a coup d’état stopping traffic in some of the already most congested cities in the world?

Yesterday’s battles

The Open Europe blog reminds us that some are still fighting yesterday’s battles against EU reform in the shape of the Lisbon Treaty, in “It’s not too late” (29 October 2009).


Discussion roundup

Erkan’s Field Diary offers a roundup of links concerning the candidacy of Jean-Claude Juncker, who represents the Lisbon Treaty conception, and of Tony Blair, who represents the projections of grandeur.


Blair campaign

The new top jobs are not on the agenda of the European Council, but they are the focus of media interest and intensive discussions at the margins of the official meetings.

Yesterday evening UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown rolled out the heavy artillery to blast the trail for his Labour predecessor Tony Blair. If British mainstream media are anything to go by, Brown’s campaign was far from a resounding success.

A tough pitch for Blair”, reports Gavin Hewitt for the BBC (29 October 2009).

Blair’s EU presidency bid runs into trouble as summit starts”, writes Tony Barber on the FT Brussels blog (29 October 2009).

Charlemagne’s notebook observes that “An EU summit turns sour for Mr Blair” (30 October 2009).

The BBC reports that lack of support from European socialist leaders makes Blair’s chances seem slimmer than before, in “Blow to Blair’s hopes of EU job” (30 October 2009).

Brown’s failure to win over the European socialist leaders is reported clearly by John O’Donnell and Tim Castle in “Blair’s chances of EU president role slip” (Reuters, 29 October 2009).

EUbusiness summarises “Support for Britain’s Blair as EU president fading: reports” (30 October 2009).

Simon Taylor reports in the same vein as the others, in “Top EU jobs left undecided” (30 October 2009), clearly indicating that the socialist leaders are more interested in the office of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Andrew Rettman and Valentina Pop concur with the others, but add a few remarks on the other candidates for the top positions, in “EU summit sees fresh discussion on top appointments” (EUobserver, 30 October 2009).

Financial Times Deutschland has a more definitive headline than the others, abandoning all hope for Blair, in „Blair muss Hoffnungen auf Ratsvorsitz aufgeben” (29 October 2009).

The Stop Blair petition has now grown to 43,836 signatures.


British opposition

The Labour government may be behind Blair, and Gordon Brown may believe that most of the country would want to see a British president of the European Council. But Blair meets resistance at home as well as in the rest of Europe, and segments of UK opinion fiercely reject practically anything having to do with the European Union.

A short while ago, the BBC’s question on Have Your Say, “Who should be the first president of the EU”, had attracted 1,181 comments, few of the ones published this far are supportive of Blair.

In The Telegraph, James Kirkup and Bruno Waterfield report that “Only third of voters want Tony Blair to be EU president” (30 October 2009), referring to a Daily Telegraph/YouGov poll.

The Conservative shadow cabinet has been up in arms against appointing Blair, with William Hague calling it a hostile act and David Cameron wishing for a more “chairmanic” role, if there has to be a president of the European Council. Whispered, but less than subtle hints in “Conservatives threaten ‘five year war’ over President Blair”, by James Kirkup (The Telegraph, 28 October 2009).

It comes as no surprise that the Telegraph blogger Nile Gardiner, who works at the US Heritage Foundation, combines his loathing of the European Union, the Lisbon Treaty and Tony Blair in “Five reasons why Tony Blair should not be EU President” (29 October 2009). This is the antithesis of those who see Blair as a failed European.

Almost every article has a comments section, which gives an indication of public sentiment in Britain. I have left out most of the tabloids, but read and reflect.



It looks as if the European Council is going to get a centre-right president from a smaller member state, a consensus building chairman in the image of the Lisbon Treaty.

The socialist leaders have a chance to put forward a name for the high representative, and Britain could corner this influential post, if it supports David Miliband. (I would rank it above one of the economic portfolios in the Commission.)

If the Lisbon Treaty clears the Czech Constitutional Court and President Vaclav Klaus is good to his word, the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council starts formal consultations. An extra summit in about two weeks time could take on the nominations: Commission, president, high representative. The extra European Council could also deal with other implementing issues required by the Lisbon Treaty.

For the citizens, the backroom dealings are a reminder of the structure of the European Union. It is based on the member states and the national leaders are the main protagonists. Only a democratic EU would give the citizens the decisive voice over where the union should head and who should be at the steering wheel.

Ralf Grahn

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