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It is interesting to recall that recently Tony Blair converted
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Tony Blair speaks during a news conference in
Beijing Aug. 20, 2009, where he was for climate talks. Will Blair be the
first president of the European Union?
After getting to "yes," who will head the EU?
Analysis: Former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair plots a course to take the job as EU President.
By Michael Goldfarb -
October 6, 2009
LONDON — After eight years of trial and many errors, the
European Union took a giant step toward establishing a constitution over the
weekend when voters in Ireland ratified the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Irish electorate comprehensively rejected the same treaty a little
more than a year ago but was given a do-over opportunity. This time voters
came up with the right answer. The Irish electorate's change of mind didn't
come because there were guns pointed at their heads. Minds in Ireland were
concentrated by the collapse of the Irish economy over the last year and a
half, and reassured
by commitments that certain issues, such as abortion and taxes, would not
be dictated from Brussels. A smallish nation suddenly realized its economic
future lay with membership of a deeply-flawed but remarkable economic, and
increasingly political, club.
So now, once Polish and Czech leaders sign on, the EU's operations will be
streamlined and for the first time it will have a "High Representative
for Foreign Affairs."
The Europeans will also have a real president. The office will no longer
be distributed on a rotating basis among the government chiefs of the EU's
members. Nor will they have to call the office of the Presidency of the
Council of the European Union.
What power the office of EU president will have is not spelled out in the
treaty. Still, it's a cool title and no less a person than former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it clear through his spin machine
that he wants the job.
British bookies make him the favorite to get the job. And if the odds
maker makers are right, Blair will have a chance to shape and define the
leadership of the European Union.
The back story: The European Union was born of historical
necessity. Three times in 70 years Germany had invaded France. The escalating
destruction wreaked across Europe by the conflict between the two nations
left continental leaders looking for a way to put the two nations in harness
economically rather than in violent competition.
In the early 1950s a visionary French civil servant named Jean Monnet laid
the foundation for the European Economic Community. Out of Monnet's
idealism came the EEC, which was established by treaty. Treaty by treaty the
EEC grew into the EU, which now has 27 members.
It has been a uniquely successful international organization in many ways,
the most obvious being that for almost 65 years there has been no war on this
most blood-soaked of continents. It used potential membership of
the club to end fascism in Portugal, Greece and Spain. Taken as a whole the
EU is the world's largest economy.
The organization has used this clout to negotiate incredibly favorable
trade deals for its member countries and it has allowed farmers to stay in
business through its massive subsidies to the agricultural sector — all this
for dues that are about 1.25 percent of a country's income. The EU then
provides grants back to countries based on their needs. Ireland received more
than it paid in for decades, which allowed it to build the transportation and
technological infrastructure that drove their economic miracle.
But the idealism of the civil servant Jean Monnet was also a kind of
original sin. Bureaucrats, most of them far less conscientious than Monnet,
ended up running the show via the European Commission, the administrative arm
of the EU, headquartered in Brussels. With each successive treaty there
tended to be a top down imposition of the bureaucrats' vision on the union.
As decades wore on resentment of Brussels bureaucrats became part of the
weave of daily life around Europe. Whenever politicians needed an easy
target, they kicked the faceless Brussels civil servant. In some places this
resentment was transformed into political ideology. Britain's Conservative
Party has become defined by its "Euro-scepticism."
Return to the present: After the fall of the Soviet Union
there was a rush to bring the former Eastern Bloc nations into the EU fold.
An organization that had six founding member countries nearly doubled in size
in the span of a decade. The EU was becoming unworkable, so the bureaucrats
decided to write a constitution that was ready for ratification in 2004.
Whatever its good points the constitution demonstrated more than anything the
gap between the civil servants and the people of Europe.
I am one of the few people who read the constitution in its eye-crossing
entirety. Imagine if a bunch of graduates of Harvard, Yale, Princeton,
Stanford and the Wharton School got into a room and decided to update the
American Constitution for the 21st Century. Then, without public consultation
of any kind, wrote a document of several hundred pages of buzz words and
technocratic jargon and acted like it was the obligation of the rest of the
country to simply rubber stamp the document. Now you get a feel for how the
treaty was written and, more importantly, how it was sold across Europe.
It was a train-wreck waiting to happen and the crash was ugly to watch.
The French were given an opportunity to vote for ratification and they turned
it down. Then the Dutch did the same. It was back-to-the-drawing-board time.
The constitution was mildly re-written and turned into the Treaty of Lisbon.
Re-naming it a "Treaty" was a good bureaucratic maneuver. As in
the U.S., in most European nations treaties are ratified by the legislative
branch of government not the general electorate. The exception was Ireland
and the Irish voted no when first asked. The moaning in Brussels was audible
from Warsaw to, well, to Lisbon. Then came the economic apocalypse and the
Irish saw the light. EU membership was critical to the Irish economic miracle
of the 1990s. The Irish need a bit more of the miraculous economic help that
EU membership does undoubtedly convey.
Inside the jargon, the Lisbon Treaty offers some common
sense solutions for managing the business of the enlarged EU. The real
headline in the Lisbon Treaty is that job Tony Blair wants so much: President
of the European Council of Ministers (President of Europe for short).
Not that the citizens of Europe will have a vote on who fills the position.
No, the presidency will be decided by a qualified majority of the member
states, heavily influenced by the most populous — Germany, France and the U.K.
Blair's strong interest in the presidency is providing Britain's
Conservatives with more ammunition to beat up on the EU. London's Mayor Boris
Johnson, a Conservative and former Brussels-based journalist, wrote in
Monday's Daily Telegraph: "A spectre is haunting Europe, my friends.
That spectre has a famously toothy grin and an eye of glistering sincerity
and an almost diabolical gift of political self-reinvention." Johnson
then asks in all seriousness, "In what sense will the views of the 'President
of Europe' be related to the views of the British people?"
It is a reasonable question, one that an elected politician would think to
ask, but not necessarily one that an unelected bureaucrat might think had to
Despite the new treaty, the flaw at the heart of the European Union's
organization — its over-reliance on unelected civil servants, the
"democratic deficit" — still remains.
Tony Blair, the EU president no one really wants
October 4, 2009
The reluctant vote in
favour of further European integration by the Irish this weekend may usher
Tony Blair into a new role as titular head of the European Union — despite
most of Europe being reluctant to have him.
The former prime minister
is the leading candidate to become the European Union president for a want of
alternatives rather than any enthusiasm.
the Irish having finally ratified the Lisbon treaty, all that remains is for
the Czech and Polish presidents to sign it and authorise the creation of two
new key posts in the EU hierarchy: the president of the European council of
heads of state, popularly known as the EU president, and that of high
representative for common foreign and security policy, in effect a foreign
The Swedish prime
minister, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, indicated last week
that he wanted the president and foreign minister to be appointed by the end
of this month.
Blair owes his 6-4 odds
for the job to the fact that the offices will probably be divvied up between
the social democrat and conservative blocs among the EU heads of state.
Although Blair appears to be disliked by all parties, especially by his
supposed allies on the left, he may end up being elected because of the lack
of another suitable candidate from the social democrat group.
Only two other possible
social democratic candidates have emerged — Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a former
Danish prime minister, and Felipe Gonzalez, a former prime minister of Spain
— and neither has the international clout of Blair. The same is true of the
potential conservative candidates Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of
Luxembourg, and Jan Peter Balkenende, his Dutch equivalent.
The president will be
elected by all 27 EU leaders, but the attitude of France and Germany is
crucial. French diplomats last week indicated that Blair remained the
preferred choice of President Nicolas Sarkozy, putting the ball into the
court of Angela Merkel, the newly re-elected German chancellor. Blair is
disliked intensely by Berlin for his role in the Iraq war and his perceived
failure to contribute to Britain’s European integration.
“The only thing he cared
about during his premiership was the City and that mentality has led to the
current global crisis,” said Michael Gahler, an MEP from Merkel’s Christian
Democrat party. “He is good at making speeches but he does not deliver.”
However, the Germans
consider the post of the president to be far less significant than that of
the foreign minister, who will also be vice-president of the commission and,
in effect, be able to shape a common foreign and security policy and have
leverage over commissioners addressing other areas.
Although her party’s
favourite is said to be Juncker, Merkel, like Sarkozy, will be concerned with
keeping at least a relatively pro-EU British politician in the spotlight.
There is also no love lost
between Merkel and the Tory party after the schism in the conservative bloc
of the European parliament orchestrated by David Cameron’s party. The pleas
of William Hague, the Tory shadow foreign secretary, in an interview
yesterday that appointing Blair was “the worst way to sell the EU to the
people of Britain” will have fallen on deaf ears in Berlin.
If appointed, Blair would
have a cabinet of up to 20 staff members as well as the thousands of EU civil
servants. Under the Lisbon treaty the president’s powers are limited,
however, and the office largely ceremonial: the incumbent will chair the
sessions between the heads of the 27 EU member states, where decisions are
made only by consensus. Not being a head of state, he will not be equal among
Other duties will include
representing Europe at presidential level, according to the Lisbon treaty. He
would receive €270,000 (£247,00) a year and be eligible for an annual housing
allowance of £37,000, plus other perks.
Blair’s instinct would
naturally be to expand his remit and assert himself against the commission.
But the presidential term of 2Å years, renewable once, provides little time
in which to act.
One last factor is
standing in the way of Blair and the EU leaders. While the Czech and Polish
parliaments have ratified the Lisbon treaty, it awaits the signature of their
respective presidents. Lech Kaczynski of Poland has announced that he will
complete the process, but his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, is refusing to
The Eurosceptic Klaus is
understood is to be planning to hold out until after the British general
election next year. If the Tories are elected and the treaty remains
unratified they have pledged to hold a referendum. It is widely expected that
would lead to the treaty being thrown out.
The whole process would
begin again. One reluctant Czech would have scuppered the ambitions of Blair,
and of the EU integrationists.
Tony Blair Likely to Be EU President, Despite European
Sunday, October 04, 2009
reluctant vote in favor of further European integration by the Irish this
weekend may usher Tony Blair into a new role as titular head of the European
Union — despite most of Europe being reluctant to have him.
prime minister is the leading candidate to become the European
Union president for a want of alternatives rather than any enthusiasm.
With the Irish having
finally ratified the Lisbon treaty, all that remains is for the Czech and
Polish presidents to sign it and authorize the creation of two new key posts
in the EU hierarchy: the president of the European council of heads of state,
popularly known as the EU president, and that of high representative for
common foreign and security policy, in effect a foreign minister.
prime minister, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, indicated last
week that he wanted the president and foreign minister to be appointed by the
end of this month.
President Blair ‘within weeks’
By GRAEME WILSON
Deputy Political Editor
TONY Blair is set to be made the first
President of Europe in weeks, The Sun can reveal.
He will be
nominated by EU leaders in Brussels if, as expected, Ireland backs the hated
Lisbon Treaty in tomorrow's referendum.
Government source said: "If we get a 'Yes' vote it will all move very,
very quickly. Tony could be named by the end of October."
of the EU's 27 nations, not the voters, will choose the president.
Former PM Mr
Blair would not formally take up the powerful position until all EU countries
ratified the Treaty.
Ireland votes "Yes", Poland and the Czech Republic are still to
decide. But Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency, wants a
president named by the end of this month - and Mr Blair is favourite.
Asked if Mr
Blair was the only real candidate, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
replied: "For the moment, indeed."
French diplomat added: "Who will dare say no to Tony Blair?" He
played down concerns about Mr Blair's support for the Iraq War.
revelations came as Tory leader David Cameron said his party would think
again about a referendum on the Treaty if every EU country approves it.
don't, he vowed to hold a national vote on the issue.
"If the Germans ratify, if the Poles ratify, if the Czechs ratify, if
the Irish vote 'Yes' to the Treaty, then a new set of circumstances (apply),
and I will address those at the time."
Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2663036/Tony-Blair-to-head-the-EU-within-weeks.html#ixzz0Tj8Ii4H5
Blair kicks off campaign to become EU President
President Blair? Former PM in frame to become first head of EU,