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A Presidential European: Uffe Ellemann-Jensen

by r------ Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:38:34 PM EST

Late Spring 1992 found Denmark in a tight spot, having in early June that year narrowly rejected, in a referendum, the Treaty of Maastricht. And, what may have been even more importantly for many regular Danes, the promising home side had only just failed to qualify to that year's European Cup tournament in neighboring Sweden, classed behind war-torn Yugoslavia in group qualifying play. The prospect of the coming summer looked as dull and grey as January on Fyn.

But Denmark's luck was to turn in a matter of a few short weeks. First, political  turmoil in Yugoslavia prompted its football side's expulsion from the tournament; Denmark were in. The political situation, however, appeared a bit more intractable. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Denmark's outspoken  centre-right Foreign Minister, who had spearheaded European efforts to recognize the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and, in so doing, set the tone for EU relations with the former Soviet Union for years to come, was headed to Lisbon to salvage Maastricht.

A diplomatic outcast in some circles due to his country's vote to not accept the European Union's initial treaty of political and monetary union,  committed and strong supported of the project of European Union, Elleman-Jensen faced a potentially bigger challenge than his efforts to secure independence, for the Estonian, Lthuanian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics. As for the football team, observers harbored hopes, but expectations were not high. Without ratification of Masstricht by all member states, it could not go into effect, thus the Lisbon summit.

While the foreign ministers were in Portugal, the football internationals were in Sweden, and a suprising Danish side passed out of group play ahead of a characteristically underperforming French side led by long-time international underachievers Eric Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin. Backstopped by goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, the heirs to Danish Dynamite pulled off an improbable semi-final victory over defending champions The Netherlands on penalties, setting up a final against giant to the south Germany on 26 June in Stockholm.

Reportedly watching the final in Lisbon ,on a portable television, while attempting to extricate his country from the treaty rejection mess his voters had created for him, Mr. Ellemann-Jensen watched Denmark pull off a resounding victory over the German machine. Entering the hall where the formal dinner marking the final night of this inaugural EU summit, Ellemann-Jensen famously quips to reporters "If you can't join them, beat them!". Negotiations, successfully followed up by the Edinburgh accords in the following year, save the Maastricht treaty, nascent EU institutions and Denmark's membership in them.

Such brio underlines why Uffe Ellemann-Jensen would make a good first President of the European Union: style. An economist by training, he knows the true meaning of statistics when employed by politicians, once remarking that "statistics are like bikinis -they show a lot but hide the essentials". And of course, beyond his impeccable European credentials under sometimes trying circumstances, his statesmanship is without question. His role at the fore of Baltic diplomacy gives him the kind of credibility in the eastern part of the union many pols from the western part lack. oming from a small country, his candidacy avoids some of the potential big-country power conflicts that a candidate from France, Germany, Italy, the UK or even Poland might provoke. And finally, coming squarely from the ideological center of the EU, soft Scandinavian liberalism, his candidacy could potentially be a unifying on for a Europe currently wracked, in some quarters, by internal political squabbling.

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen for first EU President!

I'll put a picture in as soon as I'm not stuck with dial-up.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:39:06 PM EST
This is what we need, not only things to oppose but things to stand for.

Though I am not sure Ellemann-Jensen would be my choice of Council President. Is he even in the running?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:46:14 PM EST
And what is he doing now?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:51:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
(born 1941) was Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark in the Conservative led Poul Schlüter Administration 1982-1993. He was leader of the Danish Liberal Party, Venstre 1984-1998 and President of the European Liberals 1995-2000. Since 1998, Ellemann-Jensen has been Chairman of Baltic Development Forum, a non-profit networking organisation dedicated to the business development of the Baltic Sea region. He is non-executive director of various boards of international companies.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 01:09:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 02:22:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As you may have noted, I dropped the name of Joschka Fischer in a couple of interviews, as journalists asked me who we were supporting.

His name was one of the few mentioned in the various threads, and the one with the most favorable comments. DoDo has expressed some reservations since, but he sounded like a decent choice for me as a tentative ET candidate then.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:53:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Will comment shortly offline

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:57:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The more you know about a politician the more reservations you have, which probably explains why DoDo might be more wary of Fischer than most of us, myself included. I've cooled significantly towards him in the last few years.

As for Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, he was strongly atlanticist and was IMHO a bit too quick in recognizing the independence of the Baltic States (that was no small part of the Western-encouraged destabilization of Gorbachev's regime, and my impression is that the Baltic secession was an important motivation in the 19 August 91 coup, which led to the disaster that was Yeltsing and so on and so forth...). On the other hand, he took IMHO the right position on the Danish cartoon controversy, and as redstar points out a foreign minister of a medium-sized country would be a natural choice for President of the Council.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 01:06:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm also rather reserved about Fischer. In a column for the Austrian paper "der Standard" /search for "Transatlantisches Dilemma" he wrote:
Eine mehr multilateral ausgerichtete amerikanische Politik wird den Druck vor allem auf die Europäer erheblich verstärken, mehr Verantwortung bei der internationalen Krisenbewältigung und Konfliktlösung zu übernehmen. [...]
A more multilateral american foreign policy will increase the pressure on the Europeans to take more responsibility in resolving international crisis tremendously. [...]
Worauf warten die Europäer? Warum nicht jetzt damit beginnen, den traditionellen Widerspruch zwischen Nato und EU zu überwinden, zumal unter Sarkozy sich die französische Politik gegenüber der Nato positiv verändert? Eine gegenseitige regelmäßige Präsenz der politischen Führungsspitzen in den politischen Gremien beider Organisationen bedarf keines großen Aufwandes.What are the Europeans waiting for? Why not resolve the traditional conflict between Nato and EU now that French policy under Sarkozy grows more positive toward Nato? A regular presence of the political Leadership of both organisations in each other's committees would not involve significant effort.

Later he suggests regularly inviting US representatives to sessions of the Council of Ministers and points to the failure of Kyoto as a case in point.
What I found most troubling while reading his column is that he nowhere acknowledges that Europe and the US could ever have fundamentally different interests.

by generic on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 04:38:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the exact same passages I quoted from him -- from the Guardian version of the same Project Syndicate text.

Re Migeru, I was probably more wary of Fischer until a year ago than most of you, but my current opinion was based on this op-ed alone: it shows he didn't learnt anything and got lost ideologically on the American lecture circuit.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 04:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Should have figured that there was no need to translate it myself :)

Sadly the vast majority of the European political elites can't envision a Europe that's not defined by the transatlantic relationship.

by generic on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 05:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On balance, I would accept Fischer ahead of Bliar. However, my main gripe is not even his Atlanticism, but his coming from a larger state. High Representative (successor of Solana) would suit him better.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 04:56:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by The3rdColumn on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 01:00:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to both counts by Migeru.
by The3rdColumn on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 01:02:45 PM EST
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What about Traja Halonen? Apart from till having a job?

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen?

Verhofstadt, Juncker?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 05:06:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a former Foreign Minister would be better than a Former Prime Minister.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 06:08:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune: A Presidential European: Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
giant to the north Germany
Maybe to the North of France, but to the South of Denmark.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:49:52 PM EST

Freudian slip.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 12:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bertie Ahern was offered the Presidency of the EU Commission by all the main players last time around (within the hearing of a direct contact of mine), but decided he didn't want it.  

He has already decided he will retire as Irish PM in the next couple of years, where his stock has declined precipitously because of a rather dodgy way of handling his personal finances and lack of clarity over same.  However those issues probably don't loom large in a European context (especially amongst his peers on the Council) and they will always prefer to appoint someone from amongst their own number.  

If I was a betting person I would put a large wager on his getting the job of President of the Council as he has a superb record of brokering agreements at that level.  He also has a relatively small ego (for a politician) and would attract none of the negatives that Blair attracts at a personal level, even though he also has a track record of working with the US and not doing anything about renditions etc.

He doesn't speak any European languages and that includes English as far as many people are concerned!  But then diplomats are not always supposed to be intelligible, are they?  I don't think he will inspire Europeans, but he may actually make the EU institutions work more effectively together.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 12:25:50 PM EST
Hah. That might be enough to get the Lisbon Treaty passed here. The prospect of getting rid of Bertie would look good to a lot of people. And think of the entertainment his dress sense would provide the pundits.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 12:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think Uffe Ellemann-Jensen is running, and I am quite certain that we would not want him as Union president.

Let's take a look at his resumé:

He's a committed atlanticist.

He thinks that winning the arms race won the Cold War.

He supports Schlüter's attempt in the 80s to break the power of the Danish labour unions.

He thinks Yeltsin was the best thing that ever happened to Russia (OK, that's not entirely fair, but he does engage in a degree of historical revisionism regarding the Yeltsin disaster that I would find appalling if my expectations for truthfulness from politicians had not been severely blunted in recent years).

In short, he's a cold warrior, who sees the Union as a way to secure Europe's place in the Western bloc - i.e. as a gaggle of client states to the Big Neighbour to the West.

Compared to Blair he's an angel. But then again, Blair makes Herr Ratzinger look almost progressive, so I'm not sure that's the meterstick we ought to apply.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:13:32 PM EST

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