13 november 2009

The Kingmakers of Lisbon (Arnaud Houdmont)

If rumours are anything to go by, the culmination of a long, outdrawn and rather undemocratic process that is shaping the future of Europe is nigh. Following a preliminary round of consultations with EU heads of state, Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt decided to convene an informal summit on the 19 November during which he intends to put forward one candidate for each of the two European top posts. ‘It could be that a lengthy dinner at the European Council actually delivers someone else’ he announced, suggesting that the candidates that have been mentioned in the media so far are not the only ones vying for the positions of President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy respectively.

The image it evokes is that of a bunch of statesmen enjoying a meal whilst calling out the names of the candidates they are backing. Not exactly an example of democracy in action… but arguably a fitting continuation to the ratification. On the 2nd of October, 17 months after the first referendum, Irish voters were invited to rethink their original position and ended up voting in favour of Lisbon Treaty. For the EU institutions not taking ’no’ for an answer back in 2008 eventually paid off as the last remaining obstacle was thus removed (save for the minor detail of allowing the Czech Republic to opt out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in return for Václav Klaus’ signature on the treaty) and European leaders could turn their attention to the real business at hand: the distribution of posts.

Whereas names of potential candidates had been circulating for a while, guessing who would come out on top suddenly became the prime occupation across Europe. Rarely has an EU issue enjoyed such media attention. The latest ‘conventional wisdom’ circulating in the European media, however, is that those who announced their candidacy early-on made a tactical mistake. Apparently external observers should be paying heed to the dark horses in the herd. While no final decision-making power is vested in either position, both will wield considerable influence in EU affairs and on the global stage.

Yet both posts will be appointed by the heads of state. The election of the President relies on a qualified majority among the members of the European Council and does not require the approval from the European Parliament. The High Representative on the other hand will be appointed by the heads of states and governments whose choice will need the approval of the Commission President. In the past there have been calls for direct elections to take place to give the President a clear mandate, but to no avail… After all, why suddenly change our habits and deprive the dining kingmakers from announcing their choice on the 19th of November?


At 13/11/09 15:04, Blogger Vincent De Roeck said...

Ex-Belg en ex-LVSV'er Jean-Paul Floru, die momenteel gemeenteraadslid is in Westminster (Londen) en als eerste opvolger staat te popelen om Europarlementslid Syed Kamall te vervangen zodra die naar het House of Commons zou verhuizen, schreef vandaag een meesterlijk pleidooi op de befaamde Tory-weblog "Conservative Home".


"The lady who accuses the EU of Soviet-style practices should be EU President"

"Vaira Vike-Freiberga has compared the selection process of an EU President to the secrecy of the Soviet era. Indeed, Eurology is the new Kremlinology. Many months of guesswork by the media have resulted in the naming of the Seven Dwarfs - but what Snow White will look like we do not know. The Public will of course have no say in the matter. This is now customary in the EU. Why bother with democracy if Wise Men and Mandarins do it so much better ? Ah. The D-word (disapproving glances from Eurocrats and statists) - the D-word is not to be mentioned. After all, we all know that if we'd had a democratic say, the EU would be a free trade zone and not much else. The Wise Men and Mandarins would simply not have been there."


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