Tuesday 17 November 2009

Vaira Vike-Freiberga president?

For Jean Quatremer on the Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg remains the preferred candidate because of his firm and long European engagement.

This is in line with the assessment I have expressed on this blog: “If the heads of government or state are looking for a president of the European Council with experience and engagement in EU affairs, regardless of geography and gender, Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, will win hands down.”

The merits of Juncker were succinctly put by the speaker of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert (AFP, 13 November 2009).

Vaira Vike-Freiberga

If the new president of the European Council, created under the Lisbon Treaty, is chosen on other criteria than personal merits in European affairs, Quatremer comes out in favour of Latvia’s former president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, as a woman from a new EU member state; in Vaira Vike Freiberga for president! Yes, they can! (16 November 2009):

« Je n’ai qu’un mot d’ordre désormais : à défaut de Jean-Claude Juncker (qui reste mon candidat de cœur par la fermeté et la durée de son engagement européen), Vaira Vike-Freiberga présidente! Et qui plus est une femme d'un nouvel Etat membre de l'Est, dont le pays n'a recouvré son existence que depuis vingt ans, voilà qui aurait de l'allure. »

Yes, if we evaluate external criteria, the new EU member states in Central Europe and gender balance are important, in my view, complementary to European engagement and political profile.

Despite the scope for skewed results and manipulation, the Fondation Robert Schuman poll between five potential candidates is an indication of the preferences among EU citizens. A short while ago, the number of votes had risen to 16,526 (almost 8,000 new votes in about three days) and the only woman, Vike-Freiberga, had an overwhelming lead, with 62 per cent of the votes, followed by Juncker on 18 per cent.

If you haven’t participated, you can still express your opinion. The candidates are (in alphabetical order):

Jan Peter Balkenende

Tony Blair

Jean-Claude Juncker

Herman Van Rompuy

Vaira Vike-Freiberga

I still prefer Jean-Claude Juncker for his European experience and engagement, but I admit that the continuing integration of the EU member states in Central Europe and improving the gender balance in the institutions of the European Union are important considerations.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga as the first president of the European Council could signal further integration and emancipation, but her acts and visions in EU affairs have not been scrutinised closely enough. There is still some journalistic work to be done on that front.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Do you find EUSSR myths fascinating? Are we EU citizens worth a better European Union? Read the Euroblogs aggregated on multilingual Bloggingportal.eu, and discuss our common European future.


  1. Ralf, it could be that Jean Quatremer and you are placing too much emphasis on "long EU engagement".

    If the EU followed that ideology, then how long would newer entrants to the EU have to wait before their nationals could be considered for "top" jobs?

    If one looks simply at the basic requirements of the post - eg as a coordinator - then nationals of all EU members start from equal base. Which is why my vote lies with Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

  2. French Derek,

    You are right, criteria are debatable, and as long as they are openly accounted for, this can lead to a better discussion.

    I agree that the new member states should be treated equally, so when I wrote about the criteria for the president's country, a long time ago, I underlined that the euro and Schengen or commitments to join should be accepted.

    As far as I know, Vaira Vike-Freiberga has had little direct involvement in EU affairs. She has not participated in the European Council. I have seen too little information about what she stands for politically. She is a member of the reflection group ("wise men") pondering the (non-institutional) future of the European Union, but there is very little information about the group's thinking or her contribution.

    Still, I have found reasons to see her as a noteworthy candidate.


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