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Mary Robinson and Facebook Politics

by nanne Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:04:30 AM EST

The Mary Robinson for President of the European Council hype is getting stronger in the European press, with pieces in EurActiv, the EUobserver, and The Parliament Magazine.

The article in EurActiv also reports on mounting opposition to Blair - and the role envisaged for him by his supporters - in Poland and Spain:

Polish daily Dziennik yesterday (13 October) reported that Warsaw will send its official position concerning the kind of competences the new Council president should have to other EU capitals later this week.

The Poles, it is claimed, will take a strong line against the presidential position becoming the influential globe-trotting 'face' of the EU that many experts expect it to be, particularly should a global figure such as Tony Blair get the job [...].

Instead, Warsaw foresees the new president as a secretary general-type figure who will chair EU summits and coordinate the daily work of the Council, without taking any strategic decisions.

According to European Commission sources, Spain and other EU countries are also interested in the idea of the Council president being more of a low-key organiser, and could back Poland in its motion.

Under this scenario, EU leaders could coalesce around Mary Robinson as a candidate, the sources said.

EurActiv points out that Mary Robinson is the only candidate so far to get backing from civil society. A facebook group supporting her candidacy has drawn thousands of members since it was launched nine days ago, including Commissioner Margot Wallström. This is in sharp contrast to the complete lack of enthusiasm for Tony Blair.

Honor Mahony develops the point in the EUobserver:

There are EU council president facebook groups for ex British prime minister Tony Blair and former Irish president Mary Robinson. The former has 226 members. The latter’s group has 4,789 members.

Could Mrs Robinson be someone who could both capture EU popular imagination and interest as well as solve the dilemma the EU leaders seem to find themselves in: Finding a person who would be taken seriously by other countries but would not run away with the role?

We shall see. It is very early days still and she is not yet on the ’serious contender’ list. And those who make it onto the list too early are often not those who are ultimately nominated.

The most active anti-Blair group has close to more than 1,000 members, by the way.

Meanwhile, opposition to Blair is mounting as support for Robinson is building among prominent Members of European Parliament. Score one: The Parliament Magazine.

Leading French Socialist MEP Pervenche Berès, who chairs the parliament's employment and social affairs committee, is even more anti-Blair [than Martin Schulz - nanne], telling this website, “A lot of Socialists have not forgotten Blair for his wholehearted support for the US-led war in Iraq. He does not represent the views of real Socialists and there is no way he should be considered.”

Yet more opposition comes from highly-regarded ex-Spanish MEP Enrique Barón Crespo, a former president of the European parliament, who believes the post should not to go Blair but to a woman, such as Ireland's Mary Robinson.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the joint leader of the Greens in parliament, agrees, saying, "There is no way Blair should get this job. He did nothing to defend European interests when he was PM and has done even less as a Middle East envoy."

Score two: LibDem MEP George Lyon in the Scotsman.
While opposition to a potential Blair Presidency has been growing, the clamour for former Irish President Mary Robinson to emerge as a consensus candidate has been quietly but quickly gathering pace.

After hugely successful terms as both President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Robinson possesses all the credentials in which Mr Blair is so deficient. Respected across the globe, she is exactly the kind of person we need to hold the office of EU President in its infancy.

It is the duty of a responsible Government to back a candidate that can enjoy the support of the majority, not the minority. In backing Mary Robinson over Tony Blair, the UK Government can show that the position of EU President is far too important to be governed by tribalism.

Now that the presidency of the European Parliament and the European Commission have gone both to conservative men, we need to get at least one woman (preferably two) for the remaining top posts of European Council President and High Representative. Mary Robinson would be an inspired choice.

There is also a draft Mary Robinson website.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:19:26 AM EST
But it doesn't seem to let you sign the petition unless you contribute $2.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:49:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not so, it says that your signature has been recorded and then asks you for a donation (though I could also have been deceived by the appearance).
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:52:18 AM EST
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Yea, I just got the confirmation. Sneaky tho'

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:53:09 AM EST
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I just talked to a Green MEP. They will discuss the European Council president issue today afternoon. They will be informed about the petition. They think that, with hindsight re: Barroso, they should have a name to propose. I mentioned Mary Robinson, and he asked me if I could find more about her, particularly regarding her position vis-à-vis European institutions and policies. He would appreciate if I send the info to him before 2.30 pm today. Could you help me?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:28:56 AM EST
Mary Robinson is part of an initiative called the Road to Copenhagen (with Margot Wallström and Gro Harlem Brundtland, which should be of interest to the greens.

Here is Robinson complaining of a 'lack of leadership' in the EU on IPS news, regarding climate change.

Robinson, who was also Ireland's first female president, said she is disappointed that the EU is making part of its reduction targets conditional on the behaviour of countries in the wider world.

"We still don't have the political leadership we need," she told IPS. During recent discussions, EU finance ministers have rejected proposals for revising taxation on cars to take account of their emissions of carbon dioxide - the main gas triggering climate change. "A willingness to agree a carbon tax would have hugely beneficial consequences," said Robinson. "That's part of leadership."

Still, she welcomed a statement earlier this month by José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, that a failure by rich countries to reduce their emissions would hinder the fight against world poverty and hunger. Scientists estimate that 75-200 million Africans will have their supply of water threatened by climate change within the next decade.

Still looking for more specific comments regarding EU institutions...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:49:11 AM EST
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openDemocracy interview in 2003:
openDemocracy: If you are trying to enforce the principles of human rights in a global way, why are you emphasising the role of national governments?

Mary Robinson: I believe that the nation-state level is very important. The whole human rights structure is based on the accountability of governments. It remains the task of governments to implement the fundamental human rights standards which should influence all aspects of globalisation, including even trade talks, and to be answerable for this in a democratic way. The structure is international, but the accountability is national and I would like to see that accountability being more penetrating at regional and local level, especially in federal systems.

In terms of my own experience I'm coming from the principles the European Union has been developing. I think that we have refined greatly our notions of sovereignty in the EU. Its members consider themselves to be sovereign governments, but they have ceded a part of their sovereignty to the Union level, and their sovereignty is now penetrated by EU law. I used to take cases relying on EU law which found that Irish law was no longer valid because it was in contradiction to EU law.

openDemocracy: Wouldn't you say that Ireland's sovereignty has been undermined by that?

Mary Robinson: No, because it willingly shares its sovereignty and it exercises more power in an EU context as a member-state. And also as a citizen of Ireland I have more sovereignty over our government. Because citizens now have more ways of holding the Irish government to account, not just under Irish constitutional law, but under the European system, at Strasbourg and Brussels. This, I believe, is the benefit for individual citizens.

Couldn't have said it better. In fact, I couldn't have said it nearly as well.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 07:15:58 AM EST
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But I almost fell of my seat when I learned a minute ago she is one of "The Elders" - from the website nanne linked to:

She is a member of `The Elders', an independent group of 12 eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

It´s almost frustrating that Blair is considered when there is anyone with that kind of stature. The contrast with Blair´s CV could hardly be sharper.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:49:18 AM EST
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Wiki has a good summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Robinson

The key point about Mary is that she was a feminist and human rights activist in Ireland when neither activity garnered popular support.  She has been a Europhile and supporter of international governance on human rights etc. generally.  Her support of Palestinian Human rights has earned her the ire of Zionist and neo-con groups - and she was not afraid to upset the Bush Whote House.

She is a superb lawyer and advocate but wouldn't have a huge amount of party political or administrative/management experience.  Not being a former head of Government or from a big country she wouldn't necessarily be seen as a "heavy hitter" by political pros.

In terms of the job spec for President of the Council, she would be a superb representative of the European ideal both in Europe and abroad.  I don't know about her multilingual skills - which could be a downside but would be surprised if she didn't speak at least French and German.

Where her CV lacks substance is in the back room wheeler dealing that appears to go on between and behind Council meetings in order to achieve consensus at Council meetings.  She may be very skilled at it but I don't have the evidence to support that contention.  Some people may therefore see her as more suited to the High Commissioner role, but personally I would prefer to see a heavy hitter from a larger country in that role.

However as someone whom ordinary Europeans could support, identify with, and be inspired by - I think Mary would be a very good choice - a breath of fresh air from the prevailing apparatchik culture in Brussels.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 06:52:24 AM EST
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The European Citizen: Mary Robinson for the Presidency!
Support for Mary Robinson to be the first elected President of the European Council (at least by the member states) has been building on Facebook, with 4500 supporters joining in a week and the support of Margot Wallstrom. Though the post will only be elected by the EU version of a papal election,* it's great to see some public discussion on who should be the first one to fill (and shape) the office.

So why do I support Mary Robinson for the Presidency? While I reject the Blairite vision of the presidency - powerful, executive, dominating the EU institutions - I can't support the idea that the President should be as mediocre as possible to avoid overshadowing Barroso (this argument has been advanced to support Jan Peter Balkenende's candidacy). The President of the European Council needs to be someone with experience - both nationally and internationally - who could play a positive part in shaping the Presidency and the EU as a whole. The idea behind creating a permanent president was to increase the political coherence and continuity of the European Council, and to give the EU a stronger voice in the global stage (in a way that compliments the post of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs) - while the dangers of a Blairite Presidency might tempt us into believing that we need a weak president, there will be little gained by having a figurehead president presiding over a visionless and fractured Council.

It goes on to give reasons why she'd be a good president.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 07:48:55 AM EST
she's as good a choice as bliar is a shitty one.

she's as close to perfect as we have, i've admired her for a long time.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 08:45:04 AM EST
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This diary answers a few of my questions.  Is ET positioned to kick ass once the election is in full swing?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 08:56:25 AM EST
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What election? The person will be appointed by the European Council, presumably in a closed session.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 09:06:07 AM EST
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We're not kicking ass now?!

All jokes aside, when candidates announce themselves officially, I hope we'll continue what has been done until today: considering each candidate on merits and track record of contributions towards a more stable, more effective and more fair EU.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 09:55:31 AM EST
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The most active anti-Blair group has close to 1,000 members, by the way.

Well I just made it 999, anyone else who hasnt joined want to take it to four figures?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 11:10:43 AM EST
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 12:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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