Europe lets itself down (again)
It’s not just that they didn’t give it to Tony, disappointing as that is, it’s the sheer, crushing, repetitive lack of ambition that they’ve shown. ‘They’, by the way, are the great and the good of the European Council who yesterday appointed a little-known Belgian as the first President and an even less well-known British Peer as their foreign emissary.
This is the perfect example of the overwhelming inadequacy of the European structures that we have.
Faced with truly international problems, problems like terrorism, climate change and carbon crises that require a coalition of the willing to solve, Europe has remained devastatingly unable to respond dynamically. This should be Europe’s time; these are the very issues for which the founding members designed the Union in the first place.
But instead of uniting behind America in facing down fanatics, Europe bickered; instead of aggressively pursuing CO2 cuts, European states have negotiated behind one another’s backs; and instead of demanding that Russia play fair with what’s left of the world’s oil, European leaders stabbed one another in the back to secure their own supplies. We are a ‘family of nations’ only in the sense that we seem to secretly seethe with envy at one another, compete constantly and only reluctantly sit down together in the same room once every few months.
But, in the Treaty of Lisbon, this bickering cabal had the opportunity to forge a brighter path. Here they were presented with two new posts to fill, new posts that would present the face of Europe to the world and argue the case for Europeans in foreign capitals. The candidates list, whilst hardly exhilarating, contained a couple of genuinely good names. The battleaxe’s battleaxe, Vaira Vike-Freiberga - or the equally charismatic and high-powered Tony Blair – could have been President. Clinton-idol and uber-geek, David Milliband, might have been foreign representative. But no, any of those might have actually done their jobs, shaped their roles and produced effective outcomes – overshadowing (perhaps) the very members of the council that appointed them. So, instead, we have been lumped with two nobodies.
What’s the solution? Well, as the assorted European Prime Ministers and Presidents have shown that they are utterly incapable of appointing the competent (or at least the memorable) perhaps we should let the European citizenry decide instead.
I know this sounds like blasphemy from a Euro-sceptic but, if Europe is serious about being taken seriously, it is the only way; come on Europe, let’s let the people decide.