by Frank Schnittger
Thu Jun 18th, 2009 at 08:07:53 PM EST
A conference to mark the end of the Th!nkaboutit blogging competition was held in Rotterdam on the 15th. June, and even merited a story in the Financial Times.
Joe Litobarski, Nanne Zwagermann, Andreas Mullerleile, Daniel Antal, Jon Worth, and Julien Frisch led a panel discussion on the outcome of the European Elections and David Brewer, of Media Ideas International, gave a presentation on the growing importance of blogging in conflict areas of the world - where creating an international blogging profile is sometimes the best insurance policy against arbitrary arrest and even death. Jon Worth had this to say about the more prosaic matters of Euroblogging (against the backdrop of a boat trip around Rotterdam harbour)...
The conference was a great opportunity to meet bloggers from all the EU member states. Joeri Oudshoorn "travelled to all the EU member states in 2005 and stayed at young people's homes to live their lives and interview people taking initiative. Now he is Editor in Chief of Dutch version of indigo magazine, a European serious lifestyle magazine printed in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Dutch. www.indigomag.eu"
The panel decided it would be a good idea to blog about the appointment of the next European Commission, and especially the likely identity of the Commissioners to be nominated by each country. I don't have a lot to contribute on the likely appointees from other countries, but here is my take on the potential Irish nominees:
The post of Euro Commissioner is in the gift of the Taoiseach of the day and so is likely to go to one of his (Fianna Fail) party members - although he will have to consult with his Green Party junior coalition partner. A major consideration is which candidate is most likely to secure a senior Commission portfolio - the Agriculture portfolio being the most prized from an Irish perspective. The possible candidates include:
- Charlie McCreevy (Outgoing Commissioner). I have no information on whether he wants to be re-appointed or not but he doesn't seem to have covered himself in glory in his Internal Market portfolio. On the other hand, he may appeal to Barroso's free market instincts and could be assured of a reasonably senior post if he wanted it. He has always been more at home on an Irish horse racing track with his entrepreneur chums and my guess is he would prefer to retire at this stage.
- Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach. Was offered the Presidency of the Commission but didn't want it and brokered the deal which saw Barroso appointed. Led an extremely successful Irish Presidency of the EU but has had a rapid fall from grace since primarily because of his dodgy personal finances as revealed by a Tribunal of Enquiry, and the implosion of the Irish economy just as he was retiring. It is difficult to know how these factors will have effected his stock in Europe, but he certainly has little prospect of a further career in Ireland (a run for the largely ceremonial post of President had been mooted). More of a negotiator and a fixer than an administrator, his talents would be more suited to the Presidency of the Council should Lisbon be ratified.
- Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Generally seen as competent and a major contender for the leadership if there is a heave against Cowen - and so what better way of getting rid of a potential rival than to send him to Brussels? But would he want it? He is the originator of the ban on smoking in public places which has proved to be very popular despite the opposition of the influential pub trade. A smooth operator, he could do quite well in Brussels.
- Mary Coughlan Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Has been a major embarrassment and is generally perceived as not being up to the job. During the Lisbon referendum campaign she committed the gaffe of saying that larger EU members states still had two Commissioners each - which doesn't augur well for her general knowledge of the Commission. However she is a big drinking buddy of Cowen and he will not want to be seen to demote her. The Commissionership could be presented as at least a move sideways, but would she get a significant portfolio?
- Brian Lenihan Minister for Finance. Brian Lenihan was promoted to the Ministry of Finance on Brian Cowen's election as Taoiseach. Despite relatively little prior ministerial experience and a training in Law rather than Economics or Business, he is seen as doing a passable job despite being thrown into the deep end of the worst financial crisis in the State's history. If he suffers from burnout Cowen may reward him with the Commissionership, although it is difficult to see who - other than Martin - could replace him.
- Dick Roche Minister for European Affairs. If he delivers a successful Lisbon referendum campaign this time around, Dick may be in line for a promotion to the Commission. He has always been very partisan in favour of the EU but his combative style can alienate those who see things differently. The key issue is whether he could secure a senior portfolio.
- Pat Cox . The former President of the European Parliament has the advantages of a former high profile in Europe and the fact that his selection wouldn't cause a bye-election in Ireland - as would all the other potential nominees bar McCreevy above. It has also been rumoured that his selection might have been part of the deal for Fianna Fail joining ALDE. Personally, I can't see it happening. Pat Cox was a member of the now defunct Progressive Democrat party and Cowen doesn't owe him anything. Cowen is above all a party man, and would want to be pretty desperate to go outside the ranks of Fianna Fail.
- Anybody whose appointment wouldn't cause a bye-election, one which the Government would almost certainly lose. Into this category fall Eoin Ryan, defeated Fianna Fail MEP in Dublin; Pat the Cope Gallagher, successful Fianna Fail candidate in Ireland North-West, (but who may have swung a deal to be the next Commissioner in return for standing); and Brian Crowley, popular Fianna Fail MEP for Ireland South who will lose his leadership position in UEN with Fianna Fail's move to ALDE. None of these have senior Ministerial experience and would be rightly shunted to the most junior ranks of the Commission. But is Cowen beyond caring?
The other question raised by the panel is who we would like to see be the next Commissioner from our country. I have though long and hard about people who might be qualified for the job - people with outstanding political or administrative experience. outstanding visionary or intellectual gifts, and who could make a major contribution to the development of the European Union. So far I haven't come up with any names. Perhaps readers here might have some suggestions.