Herman van Rompuy was appointed the first President of the European Community November with the collective support of its national political leaders. The process and result indicates core values of the EC
In England, all the talk was about Tony Blair. In an earlier LWD post, Dr Kamel Mnisri outlined the case. Within days, the chances of Blair being elected were being discounted.
As Mnisri put it
Detractors would argue that Tony Blair is seen by European leaders as too pro-American. The decision to follow the US and enter into war with Iraq discredited him nationally and internationally. In addition, is it relevant to have an EU president from a country that does not use the Euro?
The recent objection of France and Germany to Tony Blair opened the door for other candidates. The Belgium Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy, the former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Tapio Lipponen and especially the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and the head of the EuroGroup, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Odds shifted towards van Rompuy in the next few days. One consideration in his favour seemed to have been that a leader from a smaller less powerful State would have fewer powerful opponents than Germany’s candidate.
Gordon backs Tony
Gordon Brown, Tony Blair’s successor as Prime Minister, had demonstrated for many years how a leader’s most implacable enemies are within his own ranks. In these last weeks of the election for European President he has publicly supported Mr Blair. There was more than a risk of friendly fire during the skirmishes.
It crossed my mind that any political satire would have a scene in which advisors would evaluate the merits of Gordon openly supporting Blair as a cunning plan to win a different game altogether. I leave those who enjoy such speculation to ‘fill in the dots’ and come up with an explanation of how Mr Brown may have exercised some influence in the appointment of Baroness Ashton to the powerful post in Europe of high representative of foreign affairs and security. [Advanced students may want to explore the role played by Mr Mandelson as well as Mr Brown in her appointment].
What the Leaders Said
The public announcements of Europe’s national leaders help capture the stated rationale of the appointment. The quotes (I follow the BBC’s summary) suggest a widespread notion of a leader as someone who is able to transmit the shared values of a community, rather than someone who creates and transforms that community. President Barroso’s quotes reminds us of the important role Belgium played in the foundation of the EC through the work of Paul Henri Spaak as early as the 1940s.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JOSE MANUEL BARROSO
I think it will be impossible to have a better choice. It is also a tribute to Belgium. When selecting the current Belgian prime minister, a man of great qualities as Herman van Rompuy, I think the European [Union] also expressed its gratitude for the work of Belgium and the constant support that this country at the heart of Europe has been giving to our common project.
SWEDISH PM FREDRIK REINFELDT
The idea is to have a leader of the (EU) council… who actually gives room for everyone, who listens to everyone, who creates winners not losers.
BRITISH PM GORDON BROWN
He has a reputation for integrity and resolve and… his qualities as a diplomat, as a statesman and as a negotiator will be qualities that he can bring to the European Council and to his new position as president.
FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY
He is a man who is profoundly European and I believe it is a very wise decision to have chosen as the first stable president of the council a man who comes from a founding country of the European Union.
Meanwhile in the UK
In the UK, other views were being expressed:
The former leader of UKIP, the MEP Nigel Farage branded the EU decision disgraceful. “We’ve got the appointment of two political pygmies. In terms of a global voice, the European Union will now be much derided by the rest of the world.”
However, the appointment of low-profile figures reduces the fears of loss of national powers and the creation of a super-state. William Hague as Conservative spokesman noted it was good to see the appointment of a chairman not a chief. Foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey for the Liberal democrats observed that “With low-profile appointees, no-one can take seriously any longer the Eurosceptic deception that these positions would challenge the supremacy of nation states acting together when they agree.”
Dr Mnisri had suggested in LWD that the appointment of European President will indicate how a decision is made of ‘who will make a good leader’ . This week it has been possible to reflect on beliefs that have helped shape that decision for Europe.
What factors do you think contributed to the decision to appoint Herman van Rompuy as President of Europe?
Note that this article did not contain all the information to address the question adequately. What about the nature of the job? What about the consequences of dealing with other world powers?