Monday, January 17, 2011

About the President of the European Council, and the High Representative of EU Foreign Affairs.

After the Lisbon Treaty referendum was passed in Ireland, the green light was given to implement the Treaty and two new positions were created in the European political scene. That of the President of the European Council, and of the High Representative of EU Foreign Affairs. Who are they, what are their roles and what does their appointment mean to each one of us?

The first and most important position was filled by the Belgian politician Mr Herman Van Rompuy, while the position of the “Minister” of Foreign Affairs by a British Baroness, Lady Catherine Ashton. Their appointment was of course with no lack of intrigues and controversy like anything else in EU and Europe.

While many supported for the position of the “EU President” (including me) the Luxembourgian PM Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, the heavyweights of EU France, Germany and Britain found him “too federalist” so the position was given to Mr Van Rompuy who was favored by all. Mrs Ashton appointment was much criticized by Spain and other EU states because as they claimed, this position should be given to a national of a country that is fully committed to EU, has adopted the Euro and belongs to the Schengen Agreement.

Since their appointment, what has changed in the EU? I would say not much. We just have two new well paid politicians. But how often we actually see their activities in our everyday life, or when was the last time that we have read about their work and their vision for Europe? None of them has ever given any inspirational speeches, addressing the people.

If we compare them to their USA counterparts and their influence or importance in their country and the world, the European ones seem rather unimportant. I am not criticizing them in person or their work, rather the political situation in Europe that is becoming increasingly a farce.

When I heard about those two positions, I imagined that eventually Europe will grow up and start speaking with one voice. That eventually we will promote Europe’s interests on the world stage and show a Europe United. Especially the President of EU, as many call him, will become a symbol of the future political union of the European states.

Instead of that we still see the big powers of EU pulling the strings, while in most EU summits with other countries or regions/blocks of the world, it is the head of the EU Commission Mr. Manuel J. Barroso that is always present, representing the EU.

Not to mention that it was another Commissioner that was sent to Haiti to see and evaluate the situation, the Bulgarian Commissioner Mrs Kristalina Georgieva, not Baroness Ashton. Many criticize her for the lack of competence or knowledge, others because of her inability to speak any other European languages notably German or French.

So if she is really not the right person for the job, why she was offered it and by whom? All important positions in EU are filled by people favored by our Governments and many in many cases they are not the best choice. Our governments want still to pull all strings in European politics, so they place people in certain positions after and agreement or political compromise. 

Many demand for the position of the "EU President" to be filled after the direct vote by the citizens of Europe. In other words, it is the people who must vote directly their President that represents them. Sadly I do not see that happening anytime soon with the stance our national Governments have towards the EU. And in many countries like Greece, the people do not elect their President directly. It is just a different political system.

In Greece people vote for their Parliament and a new Government. It is up to the Parliament then to choose the President of the country. In this system, it is not necessary the direct election of the President by the people. But in the EU’s case we have three Presidents, but only one elected in this way: The President of the European Parliament.

In other words we do not have one "EU President," that can be elected by us and represent us. That is why, Mr. Van Rompuy is officially called the President of the European Council and not what it was mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty. He speaks for and represents our governments, not the citizens. But then why do we need a person for this position and what do we gain from it, as citizens of Europe?

Shouldn't we just have one President speaking for the EU and for the citizens? It seems that we are not ready for democracy on a European level yet. I was very supportive in the beginning of those two new positions, but I haven’t seen any real leadership so far from their behalf. The blame does not lie with them, they have their hands tight.

Nothing is done in Europe without the full approval by our national Governments, especially of the powerful ones. But if we pay for a “President” and a “Minister of Foreign Affairs” shouldn’t we be treated to influential ones, exactly as our American cousins have Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton? Two politicians with real influence in the world stage.

I am not sure I want to have another two overpaid politicians that not only do so little, they do not speak for me, but also they have no real credibility in the world stage. What does Europe is actually showing to the rest of the world and how do we want them to take us seriously? We are still divided over important policies and we send puppet politicians to speak for our Governments. At least we are showing the real face of Europe this way.

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