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Europe is Doomed! Special 'Nobodies' Edition

by Jerome a Paris Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:11:08 AM EST

[Europe.Is.Doomed™ Alert]

With the nomination of Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton to the two newly created jobs of President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and External Policy, a consensus has quickly been built up by the media to say that Europe, once again, has chosen irrelevance and decline by picking "nobodies" "who would struggle to stop the traffic in their home towns" and don't even resolve the "Kissinger issue." Most of this is silly spite from the media, frustrated of not being able to make big headlines - and hay - about a new super-powerful and/or super-symbolic EU President. This was never the job designation, but someone like Blair (whose candidacy we successfully scuppered) could have made it easy to pretend otherwise. The big US media have decided to mostly ignore the nominations (they barely get a mention, at this point, on the websites of the NYT or the WSJ), feeding the irrelevant and self-obsessed Europe narrative. (Maybe the media are also frustrated that the summit ended quickly, and prevented "Europe in crisis" headlines...)

Amongst the smarter comments, one can note Daniel Cohn-Bendit's lament that European leaders have really tried to made the inter-governmental approach dominant over the community approach, or the FT's more thoughtful (if side) acknowledgement that both are regarded as competent and popular.

Amongst the more relevant lessons here, I would note the following:

  • European institutions are largely dominated by the Christian Democrats. With Jerzy Buzek at the helm of the European Parliament, and Barroso at the European Commission, the right-wing formally has 3 jobs, and it can be argued that Ashton is from NuLabor, thus barely on the left. The left may complain, but this largely reflects recent elections in various European countries;
  • the big, mostly-ignored, consequence of these nominations is that the UK will not get the Commissioner in charge of banking reform; that may in the end be the most momentous EU job decision, especially if Frenchman Michel Barnier (someone likely to push a more regulatory agenda, and not just in the banking sector) gets the job, as Le Monde has announced;
  • by focusing on low-key, competent persons for the two jobs, in the current absence of a consensus on the underlying issues, Europe gives itself a chance to avoid big clashes in the future (it's not hard to imagine Blair and Sarkozy saying completely opposite things on the next big international crisis, triggering further headlines of Europe's irrelevance and inability to get its stuff together);
  • similarly, by choosing people that can get on their jobs (van Rompuy the consensus builder amongst ego-driven big names, as he did in Belgium, Ashton as a fighter for common positions, as she was doing as trade commissioner) these choices are in line with the Treaties that created the positions, and reinforce the concept of the EU as process-driven.
The nature of the EU as a big consensus-building, rule-spewing technocratic bureaucracy annoys (or is dismissed by) the traditional analysts of international relations (who want to count divisions, or admire swaggering leaders) who contemptuously see it as weakness and fundamentally underestimate (or deny) how successful it has been.

Cohn-Bendit's argument is correct as far as it goes, but I don't think strong persons (even with federalist backgrounds) in these jobs would have helped - given the work they are supposed to do, they would have fostered conflict and crisis more than anything else. Committed Europeans should focus now on the European Parliament, which has been granted new powers under the Lisbon Treaty, and should go ahead and use them smartly.

The main point, in the end, is that Europe does not need validation from the outside. A gallic shrug is the appropriate response to concern trolling about 'stopping traffic' in Beijing. Europe is not about being the biggest dick around, but about creating peace and prosperity within its borders. If it wants to be heard by others, it needs to act in ways that matter to others. Rules imposed on companies that want to do business in Europe is a proven path; creating and abiding by international treaties is nother. The secret is simple: speaking with one voice is the only thing needed - but that requires not a single spokesperson, but a single position (and thus a process to get there). The new job-holders might actually help get there in a low-key manner. Better a competent nobody than a granstanding war criminal. If that dooms us, so be it.

See also our extensive press review and commentary on the same topic.


Display:
I was just drafting a perplexed story in my head, but this will do. I'm confused by the reactions aroudn the place.

  • What the fuck is with the anti-British bullshit here? Should we be banning all the Brits from ET on the grounds they're anti-European because they're British?

  • How come the people and media who seem to be anti-Federalist seem to be the ones most pissed off that Europe hasn't appointed a Federal President and  Secretary of State?

  • How come people are surprised that, in a Europe dominated by Christian Democrat types we get Christian Democrats, with all their parochial pseudo-religious concerns, appointed to EU positions?

These appointments seem to me to be perfectly normal, low-key appointments for the positions that avoid a lot of the risks that high-key ones would have led to. Tony Blair or another high-key appointment would have been perceived as an executive president in the US or French style, which would have been appalling.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:32:41 AM EST
  1. Whilst this one ebbs and flows it has been a constant during the time I have been coming to ET. It's the reason I turned into a lurker. Well, that and despair at the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern left.

  2. [Simple Answers to Simple Questions tm] The are Randian Arseholes addicted to the conceit of "heroic leadership". I guess, for them, Emmanuel Goldstein does not come with a big swinging dick ;-)

  3. >>> Gallic Shrug <<<  


Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:48:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are Randian Arseholes

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:48:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would the EC-chosen Big Dick President have been Federal or Confederal?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Federal, from the way they're talking. Details escape me here.

 Nosemonkey tweets:

From the Bruges Group this morning: " The [Council] Presidency... is intended to be the capstone on the project to build an EU super-state."
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:00:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, Britain's history on Europe can lead one to think that their main goal is to weaken the EU and make it as powerless as possible - or, for the smarter types, to make it powerful only in ways that fit with their priorities (ie those of the City and Washington).

So their loud and extensive campaign to grab one of the two new jobs had to be seen with suspicion; and yes, given their history, there was no particular reason to let them have any of these two jobs, which symbolise, to some extent, what the EU is about.

Looking at the particulars, it was obviously more important to avoid Blair (yeehaaah!), there is the side angle of the internal market commissioner, and the fact that Ashton does not seem an objectionable pick per se. But it's still something of a bitter pill to have a Brit in one of these two jobs, yes.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:52:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
the fact that Ashton does not seem an objectionable pick per se. But it's still something of a bitter pill to have a Brit in one of these two jobs
Whenever I have spoken for the Stop Blair! campaign I was careful to stress that it was not an anti-British campaign but an anti-Blair campaign. Maybe I was wrong.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was an anti-Blair campaign, and not an anti-Brit campaign.

But what do you think of the large scale campaign mounted by Britain to get one of the two jobs, and do you think that it's amongst the first countries we should look to for a candidate for these EU-wide jobs? Why did the "no one from the big countries" somehow did not apply to the UK?

And can you not admit that for some people, it was also legitimately about him being a anti-EU Brit, even if we agreed to downplay this?

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:12:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Ashton an anti-EU Brit?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. Which is why I'm not enthusiastic, but not hostile (yet).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:23:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the FT (of all people) put it best: Blair is the wrong man for EU job
But alongside the debris piled up by the Iraq catastrophe, Mr Blair blew a historic opportunity to embed Britain in Europe and change the British conversation about Europe. At a time when Britons of his generation have never felt more familiar with and at ease with their European neighbours, and when so many EU arguments were going the British way, Mr Blair all but abandoned any attempt to win domestic opinion to even the pragmatic case for pooling a small portion of British sovereignty, instead capitulating to the Eurosceptic and jingoist media. On leaving office he blamed the press for forcing Britain's leaders into a false dilemma of being for or against Europe: "it's either isolation or treason". But after his landslide 10 years earlier he could have crossed the English Channel on foot. Leaders are supposed to lead.
It's not that he was an anti-EU Brit. It's that being a Brit he proved he was anti-EU by failing to make the case for the EU to his fellow citizens when he enjoyed an immense amount of political capital.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:17:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "no-one from the big countries" argument has to be addressed separately for the two posts, because of their different impact on the composition of the Commission.

President: Sarkozy, Merkel and Brown were evidently unwilling to put themselves forward. Berlusconi? Let's not even go there. So we turn to past leaders... Chirac, Schröder? Blair appears to have been the only one ready to put his name in the frame and to have the support of his country's current leader. That second condition is pretty crucial, since I cannot imagine circumstances in which a big country candidate could ever be considered viable without the support of the current member of the European Council. So by a process of elimination, Blair was the only big country candidate for President.

For High Rep, there were viable names available from FR and DE, but evidently Merkel and Sarkozy valued an economic portfolio in the Commission (not to mention the next ECB president in Merkel's case) more highly (and we'll find out soon enough if they get them).

The question is why did Brown decide foreign policy was more important than economics? Is there some kind of deal in place that will give him/the UK something else? Or did Barroso and the EPP gang up and tell him the UK was never going to get a senior economic portfolio?

The clear message is that someone from a small country can be forced into an EU job by peer pressure, whereas a big country leader can tell their peers to get stuffed. What's not yet clear is whether the UK is now a small country, in these terms...

by koksapir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:14:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair was the only big country candidate for President.

At one point there was Felipe González, too.

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

by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:45:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True, he was mentioned, but Spain and Poland are not quite big enough to be first-rank big countries. In any case, once Barroso was approved by the EP a Spanish candidate for either president or high rep stood very little chance.
by koksapir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:47:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As if the French or German history in Europe has been a story of selflessness? Seems like there's an increasing tendency to treat disagreement as being grounds for exclusion. I take it that since France is anti-Turkey's accession that we would be right to be upset if a French woman had got the job?

There are plenty of people in the UK who are pro-EU. Maybe this appointment will make their lives easier: maybe it'll even be good PR for the EU in the UK. I can't tell.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:11:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
between France and Germany on one side and the UK on the other (beyond the euro, Schengen, the opt-outs, the rebate, the permanent anti-Brussels propaganda from both media and politicians) is not that France and Germany are any less selfish or self-interested, it is that they have usually forced themselves to find an agreement that is EU-compatible in the end.

I'll readily admit that Chirac and Schröder have strained that, and Sarkozy made it worse, but both governments stil ltend to work on that basis. Note for instance how Sarkozy's attempt to do the Mediterranean Union thing ended up being folded into a EU process.

For France and Germany, the EU is a fundamental political process; for the UK it's still seen politically  as a zero-sum optional game, and a largely trade-centered effort otherwise.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:21:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
Note for instance how Sarkozy's attempt to do the Mediterranean Union thing ended up being folded into a EU process.
You mean that Sarkozy's attempt to reinvent and hijack the EuroMed raised concerns in Germany and wound up involving all the EU countries with no connection to the Mediterranean thus diluting it.

Germany's participarion in the Mediterranean Union was explicitly to prevent it from doing anything interesting.

I don't recall any mediterranean countries feeling so threatened by the Baltic Cooperation or the Black Sea Synergy to insist on having a seat at the table.

A friggin' disservice to the Mediterranean, Sarkozy and Merkel did.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:35:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
There are plenty of people in the UK who are pro-EU. Maybe this appointment will make their lives easier: maybe it'll even be good PR for the EU in the UK. I can't tell.

Or maybe it just won't make much difference either way, in which case the Council will have wasted an opportunity to make an appointment which could have made a difference to the EU, if not the UK.

I think the concern here is not Brit bashing, but a reaction to the Narrative that Tony Bliar had to get the top job, and, failing that, Britain had to get at least the other job.

The fact that Baroness Ashton may turn out to be competent, or at least unobjectionable is almost irrelevant to that Narrative and the hostility it has evoked.  Why must the UK always be appeased?  What would have been so wrong about appointing a duo over Browns objections by weighted majority vote and send out the message that those who seek to weaken the EU will not be indulged?

The fact that Brown got his way in the end is a victory for UK Euroscepticism even if Brown or Ashton are not Euroscepticism.  It feeds into the narrative that "Europe can't do without us, and needs British leadership - exactly the sort of leadership we have been providing since Maggie Thatcher and Tony Bliar".

Really, it's so easy to push those consensus loving, cheese eating surrender monkeys around, isn't it?.  We can safely ignore them in the future.  We have succeeded, again, in making the EU largely irrelevant as anything other that a free trade area - Ashton's claim to competence.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:36:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah. So the problem is one of gaming. Sort of a zero-sum approach where the Brits have won and other people have lost. As pushed by the sort of British media we're meant to deplore. Hadn't occurred to me to look at it that way. Must remember to put on my nationalist hat before I think about the EU next time.

Turns out I don't care if it gives some of the British establishment a testosterone boost.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:43:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Turns out I don't care if it gives some of the British establishment a testosterone boost.

The British establishment couldn't care less and will continue with EU disruption tactics on a business as usual basis.  Her appointment is an attempt at appeasing British Euroscepticism which will simply react by treating the EU with even greater contempt.  They hate the EU, and now, thanks to their efforts, the best the EU can come up with is some obscure Belgian and some even more obscure Brit.  Life just couldn't be better if you are an anti-EU British establishmentarian.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:07:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spot on! Can we dismiss her now or is it still too early?
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:10:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still not convinced that obscurity is a problem here. I'm not convinced of the need for a traffic-stopper.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:10:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:15:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I don't understand.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:22:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The traffic stopper is needed - allegedly - because it's impossible to think of a state, or a superstate, without a charismatic newsworthy figurehead.

The figurehead isn't there to write policy notes and have meetings, but to embody a political narrative, so that people know what they're a part of - giving them a chance to feel they can at least agree or disagree, in that traditionally powerless democratic way.

If there are no figureheads, the process becomes remote to the point of disinterest.

The EU does a lot of this already, so picking Van Rompuy and Ashton is in character - more so than picking Blair would have been.

That doesn't mean 'The best we could have expected, considering' is really all that admirable, or the ideal template for the future.

The EU is good at functional politics, but very bad at narrative politics, with theatre and pageantry. Theatre and pageantry are stupid and annoying, but very necessary.

Brussels doesn't want to believe this, but I think it's a mistake to ignore it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:04:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some of the most inept campaigns I have seen was aimed at strengthening european identity. Like one were the EU sponsored some campaign about giving flowers to your loved ones with big billboard posters. It was embarrassingly bad. I have wondered why - with all those resources at command - it was so horribly badly performed. I could - and have - done better political campaigns on a shoestring budget.

ThatBritGuy:

Brussels doesn't want to believe this

This sounds like a plausible explanation. If you do not believe something, you might develop a structural incompetence in the area, because you prioritize wrong and give promotions to the wrong people.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:44:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps on ET too, we have a bias toward rational policy analysis and "administrative competence" and a disdain for the emotional, imaginative, identity, and need for belongingness that popular politics is also partially about.  I sometimes feel that that the debates we have here are intra-elite or aspiring elite and that we have an inability or unwillingness to comprehend or engage with non-believers in the European ideal.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:05:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is good at functional politics, but very bad at narrative politics, with theatre and pageantry. Theatre and pageantry are stupid and annoying, but very necessary.

Brussels doesn't want to believe this, but I think it's a mistake to ignore it.

There is also the fact that every time the EU tries to build a pan-European demos - with EU flag days or whatever - you get all kinds of nationalist neanderthals up in arms about the Evil International Jewish/Communist conspiracy "undemocratic, unelected Bruxelles bureaucrats seeking to subvert people's national identity."

And those nationalist neanderthals quite often have a strong say over the federal purse strings...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:38:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are "They" that hate the EU here?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm trying to articulate the British Establishment position (which is largely Eurosceptic and surprisingly cohesive for such a large and diverse group on that issue).

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:17:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a history of pretending to articulate positions that are not yours without making it explicit that that's what you're doing. Could you stop?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:20:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "They" came in the same paragraph as British Establishment, so I would have thought it was obvious which "they" I was referring to.  And if I am not allowed to attempt to articulate or understand views I don't agree with, I have no further interest in being here.  I have no interest in being part of a chorus line parroting the perceived wisdom here.

Jerome has written a good story articulating the case for the status quo post Lisbon and the Council appointments.  I think it is possible to argue a coherent contrary case - that the competence of the appointees is not proven, that it is an attempt to appease British Euroscepticism and will fail, and ultimately, that the EU might have been better served by appointees with greater electoral standing, proven track records of articulating EU interests, developing new EU policies or mandates, and influencing their adoption on a global scale.

The jury is out, I don't know which view will ultimately turn out to be right, and I am open to persuasion, but I am interested in participating here only if I am allowed to articulate views which are not necessarily mine or which I am not sure about.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:47:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I am interested in participating here only if I am allowed to articulate views which are not necessarily mine or which I am not sure about.
That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that when I think you're arguing a certain point, suddenly it turns out you're actually paraphrasing what you imagine to be someone else's position.

You could make this clear for dumb people such as myself.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:53:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Brit was given the job because the majority of European leaders involved in the selection process felt that it was the best (only?) way of keeping the goal of building an EU with Britain... on life support.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:46:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
The fact that Baroness Ashton may turn out to be competent, or at least unobjectionable is almost irrelevant to that Narrative and the hostility it has evoked.
I'm glad to see you're getting on with the Narrative, Frank.
The fact that Brown got his way in the end is a victory for UK Euroscepticism even if Brown or Ashton are not Euroscepticism.
So this is the story: Brown got his way.

Zapatero alega que era inaceptable la falta de mujeres al mando · ELPAÍS.comZapatero alleges the lack of women at the helm was unacceptable - ElPaís.com
"Objetivo cumplido. A la primera y por unanimidad". El presidente del Gobierno español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, no ocultaba ayer su satisfacción por la rapidez con que los Veintisiete se pusieron de acuerdo en la elección de Herman Van Rompuy y Catherine Ashton, flamantes presidente permanente del Consejo Europeo y alta representante para la Política Exterior y de Seguridad de la UE."Goal achieved. In the first round and unanimously". The Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, didn't hide his satisfaction with the speed with which the 27 agreed on the choice of Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, brand new permanent president of the European Council and high representative for the EU's Foreign and Security Policy.
Aseguró que se había "implicado" en los nombramientos; sobre todo en el de la segunda, por su condición de socialista y mujer. "Como responsable de un Gobierno con más ministras que ministros, me resultaba difícilmente entendible y aceptable que no hubiera ninguna en los principales cargos de la Unión", alegó.He claimed he had been "implicated" in the nominations; especially in the latter's due to her being a Socialist and a woman. "As the leader of a government with more female than male ministers, I found it hardly understandable or acceptable that there would be no [women] among the main positions of the Union", he alleged.
Zapatero siempre dijo que, si se presentaba la oportunidad, apoyaría la presencia de una mujer en las instituciones surgidas del Tratado de Lisboa y ésta se la brindó el primer ministro británico, Gordon Brown, cuando retiró la candidatura de su antecesor, Tony Blair, y propuso a la desconocida comisaria británica para dirigir la diplomacia europea.Zapatero had always said that, if the opportunity presented itself, he would support the presence of a woman among the institutions created by the Lisbon Treaty, and this opportunity was given by yh Britis Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he withdrew the candidasy of his predecessor Tony Blair, and proposed the unknown British Commissioner to lead European diplomacy.


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:54:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Brown got his way" presupposes that he was supporting Blair because he genuinely wanted him in the job. Given past enmity between the two, is there not at least a chance that he went along with the campaign on the basis that Blair would come out of it looking shabbier than when he went in?
Again did he really want a Brit in the High Rep job, given the reduced influence in economic issues in the Commission? Van Rompuy-Miliband would have been a shoo-in two weeks ago, before the "woman candidate" campaign picked up steam. Has Brown been forced into Ashton's appointment, as Zapatero appears to be indicating?
It was widely assumed a week ago that Brown was continuing to support Tony Blair so that he could give him up in return for something good. Instead he gave him up before the meeting even started and seemingly has also given up influence in the economic field. Obviously it's being presented by Brown as a great victory getting a Brit in the job, but it seems pretty hollow.
by koksapir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
koksapir:
Given past enmity between the two, is there not at least a chance that he went along with the campaign on the basis that Blair would come out of it looking shabbier than when he went in?

Brown isn't that devious. He doesn't do calculated.

I think it's more likely someone suggested Ashton to him, and when it was obvious that the other fellow travellers were out, he jumped at the chance to shoo-in someone who could wave the flag.

I wouldn't expect plots within plots from Brown. He's neither adroit nor imaginative.

As for why - yes indeed, it was to keep the UK on side. Not picking a Brit for the big jobs would have given the Eurosceptic gutter press in the UK its best Christmas ever.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:09:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
Britain's history on Europe can lead one to think that their main goal is to weaken the EU and make it as powerless as possible - or, for the smarter types, to make it powerful only in ways that fit with their priorities
their loud and extensive campaign to grab one of the two new jobs had to be seen with suspicion
On that, there was no evidence to suspect anything other than Blair's megalomania.

If Spain had a PP government and they had lobbied to install Aznar it would have been the same: an attempt by a megalomaniac atlanticist backed by his christian democrat cold warrior party. I would hope "national character" would not have been an essential part of ET commentary.

Maybe we should start insisting on how Chirac and Sarkozy reflect negatively on the personal character of French ETers in order to bring the point home.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't see the image you posted from work (would guess it is an illustration of the politique de la chaise vide ?) so can't comment on that, but I don't understand this:


Maybe we should start insisting on how Chirac and Sarkozy reflect negatively on the personal character of French ETers

When have I made any comment on the personal character of Britsh ETers? I've given my opinion on current official British policy on Europe, and on how current British politicians are likely to follow the same. How does that have any bearing on my opinion of Britsh individuals in general?


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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:30:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a yes minister clip about UK involvement in the EEC.

Jerome a Paris:

How does that have any bearing on my opinion of Britsh individuals in general?
You are disappointed at Ashton's appointment on the exclusive basis that she's British.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:39:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
because she is a British politician and that seems to be the main driver of her choice (that and being an available token female).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:48:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why "token"?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Get on with the narrative.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because she has never been elected to anything, was never a particularly senior or influential politician in the UK, has barely had 12 months taking over an existing brief and mandate as a trade negotiator on behalf of the EU - has she changed anything, achieved anything on a European scale?  The brief was for a nominally leftist women to balance male right wingers in all the other EU leadership positions.  In the end it had to be a Brit to get Brown to back off Blair.  There wasn't anyone else left...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:57:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other and: name a female Socialist former foreign minister-or-higher from the EU's North[west], who would have been available for the job.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:13:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why did the job have to go to the North west?  You have lost me here.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:54:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, messed up with the PotEC...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:09:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EP President is Polish, the Commission President is Portuguese... and we were not about to give a top job to a Balkan :P

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How do the Spaniards feel about being disqualified for all jobs because Barroso is Portuguese?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:48:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not aware that this was the case - nobody has made it an issue at all in the Spanish public debate.

I was however, pretty pissed off that Zapatero suported Barroso's reappointment on the grounds that he's Iberian because I think he's about as bad as Blair, only less evil and with better teeth.

Then again

  1. by not pushing for Moratinos, Zapatero preserved the reappointment of Joaquín Almunia as Commissioner for Economic and Monetary affairs. Now that you mention it, was this reappointment the quid-pro-quo for supporting Barroso?
  2. Rumour has it that Sarkozy was suggesting Moratinos so that Almunia would have to be dropped and France could take his portfolio
  3. Moratinos was in the short list for High Representative


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:23:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because she has never been elected to anything

Given that diplomacy is not necessarily best conducted by elected officials, I fail to see why this is a huge problem.

was never a particularly senior or influential politician in the UK

Uh... in my view, that's a mark in her favor, when one thinks about recent senior and/or influential politicians in the UK.

The brief was for a nominally leftist women to balance male right wingers in all the other EU leadership positions.

Ah.  So any woman named to this position would be a "token"?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:17:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the stormy present:
Ah.  So any woman named to this position would be a "token"?

No.
Neelie Kroes (if you want a commissioner with a track record)
Mary Robinson (if she could be persuaded)
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE (if you want someone with both a Commission and an electoral track record)
Tarja Kaarina Halonen

All have more substantial track records.  The only problem was they're not British.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:27:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kroes wasn't foreign policy, either -- and, Oui's praises notwithstanding, I heard positives about her only in the same timeframe Ashton was Commissioner. AFAIK Tarja Halonen wasn't available, either. Dalia Grybauskaitė wasn't from the Northwest.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:37:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mary Robinson has said she does not want the job. Tarja Halonen and Dalia Grybauskaite both have jobs.  Why on Earth would they want to give up being presidents of their respective countries to take this position?  Crikey, I wouldn't.

Neelie Kroes I had to look up.  It seems to me that has no real experience in diplomacy or foreign relations, other than her current position as Commissioner for Competition, in which her mandate is largely limited to business and commerce -- hardly the profile I'd want for this position, but I'm not European, so what do I know.  As a side note, the Wiki entry says she's "a confidant of Ayaan Hirsi Ali," and persuaded her to join the VVD, which IMHO should be a huge mark against her.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:45:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why on Earth would they want to give up being presidents of their respective countries to take this position?

(Just nitpicking: van Rompuy and Barroso did gave up their PM jobs. Though, for fairness, Barroso did so to flee a sinking ship...)

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

by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:48:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They gave up positions as heads of state to become presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.  Do you think either would have done so to become foreign ministers?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:55:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They may or may not have been persuadable.  I don't know if any were asked.  My only point here is that to argue that Baroness Ashton was appointed in large part because she was British and a women is not necessarily a sexist "token" women argument.  If someone wants to make the argument that she is the best possible High Rep for the EU at the moment regardless of nationality or gender, then I am happy to listen to that argument - but I have seen no one even try to make that case.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:53:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're the one who used the term "token," not me.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:58:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, sorry, it was Jerome who used it, apologies.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:01:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem - I don't think Jerome should have used the word "token" as it is generally a red flag word for sexism.  However Jerome has acknowledged her competence - much more than me - and my concerns are centred around a lack of experience/achievement at the highest level and a lack of a history of successful political engagement with any electorate.  Neither necessarily mean she won't end up doing a good job.  However the reasons for he appointment won't necessarily increase popular identification with EU institutions either, and that was one of the issues Lisbon was supposed to address.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither Kroes nor Robinson nor Grybauskaité nor Halonen were on the list proposed yesterday in the "betting pool" open thread.

Jerome a Paris:

I think you need to add (none / 1) the list for the High Representative as well. The two will be selected as a pair.

Names mentioned

CATHERINE ASHTON, 53, a member of Britain's Labour Party, she has been the EU's trade commissioner since 2008;

MASSIMO D'ALEMA, 60, is a former Socialist Italian prime minister and foreign minister;

BERNARD KOUCHNER, 70, France's foreign minister and the founder of the international aid agency Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

DAVID MILIBAND, 44, the Labour Party member is currently Britain's foreign minister;

MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, 58, is Spain's Socialist foreign minister with seven years prior experience as the EU's special representative for the Mideast peace process;

URSULA PLASSNIK, 53, a Christian Democratic former Austrian foreign minister and ambassador to Switzerland;

OLLI REHN, 47, a Finn, has been EU commissioner for enlargement for five years;

ADRIAN SEVERIN, 55, member of the European Parliament, the Social Democrat is a former Romanian foreign minister.

I'd also add Elisabeth Guigou

Of the women, Plassnik was of the wrong party, as there was a political agreement to appoint an EPP member as President and a PES member as High Representative. Jérôme added Guigou to the list as a personal wish.

As it turns out, looking at the field I ended up predicting Ashton's appointment. And Jérôme predicted Juncker-Plassnik, presumably with a dose of gender balance influencing the choice?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But then perhaps I am a no one!
Frank Schnittger:
It's useful to have the additional info given with this list:
BACKGROUND: Who's who of possible candidates for EU posts - Monsters and Critics

JAN PETER BALKENENDE, 53, Christian Democratic prime minister of the Netherlands since 2002;

TONY BLAIR, 56, former Labour Party prime minister of Britain;

FELIPE GONZALEZ, 67, a Socialist former prime minister of Spain;

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, 53, the party-unaffiliated president of Lithuania and a former EU budget commissioner;

TARJA HALONEN, 65, the Social Democratic president of Finland since 2000;

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, 54, Luxembourg's Christian Democratic prime minister and head of the Eurogroup of European finance ministers;

PAAVO LIPPONEN, 68, the Social Democrat is a former Finnish prime minister and current president of that country's parliament;

MARY ROBINSON, 65, former Labour Party president of Ireland;

WOLFGANG SCHUESSEL, 64, a former lawyer and Conservative Party chancellor of Austria from 2000 through 2007;

HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, 62, current Christian Democratic prime minister of Belgium;

GUY VERHOFSTADT, 56, a former Belgian prime minister who currently heads the Liberal bloc in the European Parliament;

VAIRA VIKE-FREIBERGA, 71, an unaffiliated former president of Latvia.

Candidates for High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (in alphabetical order):

CATHERINE ASHTON, 53, a member of Britain's Labour Party, she has been the EU's trade commissioner since 2008;

MASSIMO D'ALEMA, 60, is a former Socialist Italian prime minister and foreign minister;

BERNARD KOUCHNER, 70, France's foreign minister and the founder of the international aid agency Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

DAVID MILIBAND, 44, the Labour Party member is currently Britain's foreign minister;

MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, 58, is Spain's Socialist foreign minister with seven years prior experience as the EU's special representative for the Mideast peace process;

URSULA PLASSNIK, 53, a Christian Democratic former Austrian foreign minister and ambassador to Switzerland;

OLLI REHN, 47, a Finn, has been EU commissioner for enlargement for five years;

ADRIAN SEVERIN, 55, member of the European Parliament, the Social Democrat is a former Romanian foreign minister.




notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:09:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understood only the ones in yellow were candidates for High Representative and the others were candidates for President.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guigou would have been a good choice.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:43:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She had no patrons, with the PS being in opposition and all...

Ashton had Brown to propose her and Zapatero to second it, both Socialist and Brown her compatriot.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:55:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me challenge the idea that "no being elected to anything" is a disqualifier.

In the current media-dominated, postmodern, electioneering brand of politics, elections are to a large extent popularity contests. Substance in public political debates is low. We discuss whether politicians are photogenic (I don't think Ashton is) or charismatic.

To borrow terminology from Bob Altemeyer, the proportion of authoritarian social manipulators among elected politicians is higher than in the general population. Sociopaths are not only drawn to power but they are more successful at emotionally manipulating crowds. In addition, to be selected by a political party to be a candidate tends to require taking part in the mutual backscratching of the patronage networks underlying political parties.

Thus, we get Blair. And Sarkozy. And Berlusconi.

The other day there was the following in the Salon

Bernard:

Tony Blair May Covet EU Presidency, But He's No Belgian Haiku Master - WSJ.com
Mr. Rompuy is the right man, Belgian political scientist Tobias Van Assche argued in a paper published last week by the University of Antwerp. After all, the 62-year-old Belgian scored low in a measure of "self-confidence" and "will to power."
to which I answered
If he got to Prime Minister nonetheless, it means that he probably has enough of both, and simply scored "relatively low" among the sociopathic manipulators he has for peers.
From what I've read about Ashton she's the kind of person that just gets down to work. Clearly she doesn't have the inclination or ability for electoral politics. But nobody has claimed she has been incompetent at any of her appointments. She was, indeed, appointed Commissioner to replace Peter Mandelson (a double-high sociopathic manipulator as referenced above) with 18 months left of a 5 year term and so she was probably chosen because nobody else wanted the job. Nobody expected her to achieve much anyway. But reports are that she is well respected in Brussels because of her work over these 18 months.

Let me give you another example: Jadranka Kosor of Croatia.

Croatia had a charismatic Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader. He got locked into a dispute with Slovenia's Borut Pahor which delayed Croatia's EU accession negotiations for over a year. Then he resigned abruptly and installed Kosor as his replacement. Apparently Kosor wasn't well respected in Croatia, even though she had even been a Presidential candidate, most people considered her to be an airhead. However, she happens to be one of those people who sit down and quietly do their job. One of the first things she did when she assumed office was to whip all the ministers into shape demanding a quick report from each of them. It appears they were shocked. She also has solved the diplomatic dispute with Slovenia in less than 6 months, though it is possible that the Croatian public or parliament won't like the deal she's struck. Her popularity seems to be suitably high at this point. But hey, at the time of her appointment people's perception of her was coloured by the current president's quip during the presidential election that pitted the two of them that all she was good for was coming out of a cake at a party.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:18:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You or SteelLady should write a longer diary on her, BTW.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:20:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a problem with competent people doing good jobs "even if they were not elected to anything".  

My concern is that we have just fought a very hard referendum campaign in Ireland where much of the NO argument was driven by British and Irish Eurosceptic arguments about "unelected elites" in Brussels taking over peoples lives and now we seem to be going almost out of our way to appoint someone who fits that description reasonably accurately.

Membership of the British House of Lords (and she is still a peer) does not sit well with most peoples idea of democratic accountability and all sides - even the yes campaign - conceded the EU had some way to go to make the EU institutions appear "closer to the people" and to encourage greater popular identification and emotional involvement with those institutions.

That argument always seemed particularly specious to me when it came from British Eurosceptics with their (frequent) attachments to the House of Lords, "distain for the masses", and attachment to direct democracy only when it came to demanding referenda on the EU.

But it is still an argument and a perception which gained a lot of traction in the campaign and appointing a Peer who has never submitted to a popular election doesn't help that perception.  Politics is about popular engagement as well as administrative competence, and in my view Baroness Ashton has not conclusively demonstrated either.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:08:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Membership of the British House of Lords (and she is still a peer) does not sit well with most peoples idea of democratic accountability and all sides - even the yes campaign - conceded the EU had some way to go to make the EU institutions appear "closer to the people" and to encourage greater popular identification and emotional involvement with those institutions.
I am on the record not minding an unelected House of Lords.
Actually, an unelected second-reading chamber helps protect the State from the influence of money. Case in point: if the House of Lords votes down 42-day detention it will be in part because Brown can't threaten the Lords with a snap election where they'd lose their seats, or engage in horse-trading on individual constituency demands.

So I am convinced that having two directly elected chambers is a waste but I am not convinced that an unelected second chamber is a bad idea. Spain's Senate definitely is useless as configured and I would much rather it be replaced with the Conference of Presidents.



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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:49:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Whatever about the UK - and they are as entitled to their internal traditions as anyone else - how is this relevant to the EU?  You are hardly advocating a second, unelected Chamber of the EU Parliament?

The irony I am seeking to highlight (perhaps ad nauseam by now) is that British Eurosceptics never stop criticising the EU for a lack of direct democracy  whilst being contemptuous of popular politics within the UK and being supportive of the Queen, The lords, and the constitutional privileges of the House of Commons.  There is hardly a country in Europe with less direct democracy than the UK, and a highly flawed first past the post electoral system at that.

Appointing a Baroness to a top EU post is going to do nothing to challenges the faux "unelected Brussels elite" argument they so love to pedal.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:01:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Whatever about the UK - and they are as entitled to their internal traditions as anyone else - how is this relevant to the EU?
Because everyone is making Ashton being a life peer an issue in her EU appointment, including you to whose comment I was replying.
You are hardly advocating a second, unelected Chamber of the EU Parliament?
I'm not. If you read my comment you'll infer that I would oppose a second elected chamber which is not the same thing as advocating a second unelected chamber.

But, really, as I am forced to point out repeatedly, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) is an unelected (that is, indirectly elected) second-reading chamber and nobody clamors for its removal, and it is very analogous to the European Council itself, where representatives of the Member States' governments act in codecision with the directly elected parliament in the EU's legislative process.

Appointing a Baroness to a top EU post is going to do nothing to challenges the faux "unelected Brussels elite" argument they so love to pedal
So the British Eurosceptics peddle inconsistent nonsense, what else is new? I thought the point of our debates was to do our own honest analysis of sorts. And I disagree - attacking a fellow Brit, and a former Leader of the House of Lords and President of the Privy Council would be a bit muchfor the British Eurosceptics.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:11:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Baroness Ashton was only appointed to her various UK ministerial jobs on the basis of being an appointed member of the House of Lords. That maybe ok in the context of UK Parliamentary tradition, but I suggest, not a great basis for EU appointments when the EU is itself under constant criticism for its "demodratic deficit".  Should we appoint (say) a member of the Belgian royal family to a top EU post?  They might be very competent.

I thought the Lisbon Treaty and the new posts created under its terms was part of an attempt to encourage greater popular identification and involvement with EU institutions by EU citizens.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:24:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Baroness Ashton was only appointed to her various UK ministerial jobs on the basis of being an appointed member of the House of Lords.
As there were hundreds of other members of the House of Lords, I think you're overstating the case here.

Within the institutional context of British politics, her life peerage is totally incidental to a political apparatchik's career. If someone has to be made a peer in order to be a minister because they're not an MP, they are made a peer. It's pretty meaningless. Most non-hereditary peers know this and are not assholes about being a Baron(ess).

Sarah Ludford MEP is also a life peer and nobody questions that she works her arse off as a parlamentarian. Then again, she's in an elected position and in the Lib Dems you have to go through an open (to party members) primary in order to get the #1 slot on the party list.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:35:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Within the institutional context of British politics, her life peerage is totally incidental to a political apparatchik's career. If someone has to be made a peer in order to be a minister because they're not an MP, they are made a peer.

Precisely my point.  In Britain it is possible to have an extensive ministerial career without ever standing for election - something which is less common in most other member states as far as I am aware  - and not necessarilly a great way to tackle the acknowledged "democratic deficit" within the EU.

My point is that because of long-standing tradition (some would call in class prejudice) it is not very unusual for senior political leaders never having to be electorally accountable in the UK.  As long as they're the right sort of British, that's all well and good old chap.

However the EU has nothing like the long tradition and legitimacy that appears to be bestowed on the British ruling class.  What legitimacy it has is largely bestowed on it through popular elections and the participation of popularly elected Governments.  

I'm sure if she ends up doing a very good job, none of this will be an issue.  But its not a good place to start from right after the difficulties we had in getting a popular endorsement of Lisbon against allegations that it was all an elite project and a conspiracy against ordinary people.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:58:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
In Britain it is possible to have an extensive ministerial career without ever standing for election - something which is less common in most other member states as far as I am aware
Um, take Pedro Solbes, Spain's minister for agriculture 1991-3, Economy minister 1993-6 and 2004-9, vice-president in 2004-9, and EU Commisioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs in 1999-2004. He only even joined the PSOE in 2008 and was a parlamentarian for exactly one year.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:04:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you are saying it is, and should be an elite project? That wasn't the Yes campaign line.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:08:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had enough of your populist demagoguery in this thread.

You make a factual claim, I rebut you and you reply with this? I was not part of the yes campaign in Ireland.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:15:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I've had enough of your populist demagoguery in this thread.

Ah so it is populist demagoguery to argue that the EU should be more than an elite project and I should stop arguing that popular mandates are an important though not the only form of democratic legitimacy.  Seeing this is the second time you have told me I am not welcome here I shall leave.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:23:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have replied with reasoned arguments and facts to the litany of talking point after talking point coming from you, some of which are not even your own opinions. So, yes, I find it frustrating to debate you. And no, I am not speaking for here but for myself so don't play victim either.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:26:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You will never turn me into a victim, but I will not debate on exclusively your terms either. I find your almost exclusive emphasis on the rational and disdain for the popular, democratic, emotional, affective and imaginative elements of politics equally frustrating, but I hope I have never been discourteous in my replies.  If so I apologise.  Cheers!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:34:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 "You have a history of pretending to articulate positions that are not yours without making it explicit that that's what you're doing. Could you stop?"

"I've had enough of your populist demagoguery in this thread."

I don't find these statements can be lumped together with other "reasoned arguments and fact."

Without going into the validity of anyone's arguments here,  i would be displeased if ET lost the quality Frank Schnittger brings to the table simply because you might dig too deeply for civilized discourse.

If you've indeed had enough of x or y, the proper response is leave it alone.

And i may discuss the anti-Brit thread elsewhere, but not here.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:18:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course the Eurosceptics want to preserve their own delusional concept of sovereignty and empire.

Democracy has nothing to do with it - it's just a convenient stick they can use to beat the dog. If the electorate is dim enough to believe the sceptics have any interest in democratic accountability, more fool them.

Elected leaders are hardly models of excellence - Blair, Aznar, Burlesquoni, ad nauseam - so being elected isn't quite a benchmark of appropriateness.

What this debate underlines is the impossible criteria needed for leadership. If you're elected you're likely to be a spiv, a fool, and/or a sociopath, and if you're unelected you're undemocratic - which is even worse

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
What this debate underlines is the impossible criteria needed for leadership. If you're elected you're likely to be a spiv, a fool, and/or a sociopath, and if you're unelected you're undemocratic - which is even worse
What this debate underlines is that there's always a talking point available within one's narrative to argue either way on anything.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:19:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I said. :)
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It applies with full generality, so I restated it.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:26:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, another Angela Merkel.

I agree she's a fig leaf, but that doesn't mean she'll be insignificant.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:45:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, another Angela Merkel.

A potentially powerful narrative.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:20:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because "we" disapprove of her appointment. Therefore token.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:00:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I donŰ't disapprove of her appointment, but she was certainly not chosen for her experience in diplomacy and foreign policy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:17:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Her job as trade commissioner involves foreign relations.

Also, when Javier Solana (of all people) became Spain's foreign minister he came from the ministry of education and had no diplomatic experience.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:22:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would experience in a national foreign ministry be good or bad for the new HighRep?  
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:25:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bad because of possible vested interests?

I mean, you can always find a soundbite to argue whichever way.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:24:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But moving beyond the soundbites, it's actually an interesting question.

On the one hand, experience in the workings of state-level foreign policy gives you an idea of how foreign policy works. On the other hand, it means that you come with an existing patronage network and conventional wisdom, which may or may not be A Good Thing, depending on how parochial your local foreign ministry apparatchiks are.

On the state level, I guess Tory Bliar represents someone with no foreign policy experience prior to having to deal with it. That does not seem to have done him any favours, but that may be because of the peculiarities of the British Foreign Office.

On the other hand, long foreign policy experience means - and this is a simple matter of mathematics that would apply to all experienced candidates equally - that much of the conventional wisdom they'd have in their baggage would predate the fall of the Berlin Wall (or, at the very least and depending on your definition of "experienced," predate Schengen, Vietraq and the €). Which does not seem to have ever done anybody any favours either.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Her job as trade commissioner involves foreign relations.

Low-level and only trade.

Also, when Javier Solana (of all people) became Spain's foreign minister he came from the ministry of education and had no diplomatic experience.

Nor did Joschka Fischer and now Guido Westerwelle in Germany when getting the job. But that was not tokenism, that was (self-imagined) alpha males wrangling for top jobs.

As for Ashton, just your bilingual column about Zapatero points to tokenism as a main motivation for selecting her. But, look, don't misunderstand: from the little I know, I agree with you that she is an able person, and I hope she'll grow into the job just like into her previous (or like Solana and Fischer grew, and hopefully Westerwelle will grow into theirs).

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

by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:31:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not my opinion, sorry, but one of the explicit criteria used in the selection process: one of the two had to be a woman.

To list the non-competence related criteria:
explicit:

  • one man, one woman;
  • one left-wing, one right-wing;
  • the High Representative takes away the commissioner from its country of origin;
  • some geographic balance, considering that the EP president is from Poland and the Commission President from Portugal/Iberia;

implicit:
  • France and Germany did not want a Big Dick as president, and did not want to push names for either job;
  • the UK seemed to absolutely want one of the two jobs;
  • the small countries had a strong preference for the president to be one of them;
  • the EPP wanted the President (and thus the High Rep would have to be from the left);


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:40:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:

To list the non-competence related criteria:
explicit:

  • one man, one woman;
  • one left-wing, one right-wing;
  • the High Representative takes away the commissioner from its country of origin;
  • some geographic balance, considering that the EP president is from Poland and the Commission President from Portugal/Iberia;
I guess this makes van Rompuy the "token male right-wing" and Ashton the "token female left-wing"?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:42:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"the UK seemed to absolutely want one of the two jobs;"

That to me should have been reason NOT to let them have one. I would have been happy for a competent Brit to be considered. But a demand from the UK that they of all states should be certain to have one of the two jobs, no, that's not acceptable.
For those who claim that this is being anti-Brit on sight, how do you think the UK would have reacted to seeing the command of operations in Irak given to a French general? Even a competent one mind you. Then, add to that that France would have demanded it be given the position.

"the EPP wanted the President (and thus the High Rep would have to be from the left)"

Ahh, a failure on that count though. The High Rep is from the Right.


Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:05:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cyrille:
The High Rep is from the Right.
Hardly, though I agree about New Labour in the aggregate.

Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Between 1977 and 1979 Ashton worked at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was later elected as its national treasurer and subsequently as one of its vice-chairs. As of 1983 she worked for the Social Work Training Council.[8]

From 1983 to 1989 she was Director of Business in the Community working with business to tackle inequality, and established the Employers' Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now, and the Windsor Fellowship.

But last night we already established that campaigning for the UK to drop its "nuclear deterrent" during the early 80's was not sufficient to endear her to one of this site's most prominent anti-nuclear advocates because she's British.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:13:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She may well be a leftist at heart, but she's in a party that's from the right. You could equally well say that Chirac was a far-left politician.

Either she has changed, or at least one of her allegiances (to New Labour or to her previous campaigns, the Business in the Community being the more significant to me in a left-right discussion) is insincere. And I have no idea which one.

But if a Madrid-born lad plays for Barcelona, you can expect him to try to score against Madrid, even if he secretely wants Madrid to win. So, to rephrase, the political persona of the High Rep is from the Right. What she thinks and says at home, indeed, I don't know.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:22:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
But last night we already established that campaigning for the UK to drop its "nuclear deterrent" during the early 80's was not sufficient to endear her to one of this site's most prominent anti-nuclear advocates because she's British.

I must be missing something. I think I've followed and scanned through again the discussions here. What are you referring to? And why all this pissy innuendo from you and Colman?

There are serious arguments against the UK holding high office in the EU. And the UK's official attitudes and communication may rub other Europeans up the wrong way. But where on ET has there been denigration of British citizens per se?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:29:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Crazy Horse:
what's positive about being for nuclear disarmament?  What are the alternatives, agnostic? Pro armament?


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:34:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is supposed to count as being against Ashton because she's British?

Doesn't do it for me (though I don't necessarily agree with CH's scepticism).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:43:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes people are against Ashton for being British.

You could start by reading Jerome's own FP post

Looks like Blair's persistent lobbying did open the route for the UK to grab the most important of the two new jobs. The only silver lining is that the Commissioner in charge of banking reform in the next Commission will not be British...
and the top-level comments to it

Crazy Horse:

And echoing Fran, it will take much to convince me that the UK, outside of Schengen and the Euro, should have been given such a supposedly key position.
Jerome a Paris:
Why a Brit?
Cyrille:
How can the UK get ANYTHING?
Crazy Horse:
I feel robbed, or raped.
When I said
This is pretty unbecoming...
the answer was
This is disingenuous
But, truly, it is as unbecoming as
She looks only half female to me...
But this is just my personal opinion and oversensitivity, I guess. Or maybe not.

RogueTrooper:

Whilst this one ebbs and flows it has been a constant during the time I have been coming to ET. It's the reason I turned into a lurker.


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And let me add, this was clearly the gut reaction. Then it has been rationalised in all ways. Because she's a life peer, because she has no experience, because she's from the Labour Party, because she's a token woman... But the first reaction of those who criticise Ashton was why a Brit? After some arguing they can be convinced to withhold judgement because nobody knew her before yesterday. As with van Rompuy, I guess.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:55:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
this was clearly the gut reaction. Then it has been rationalised in all ways

That is entirely your interpretation.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:05:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We'll leave it at that.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Disingenuous and skewed to add the last points.

As for the others, they are based on Ashton as an official representative of the United Kingdom in the EU. Not on her Britishness as a person.

And no, this is not about frames and narratives. You are plainly exaggerating the focus of these remarks. Given Colman's top comment, I'd say he is too.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:01:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess both Colman and I are in the minority here. But I'll add I didn't like this one bit.

Migeru:

Whenever I have spoken for the Stop Blair! campaign I was careful to stress that it was not an anti-British campaign but an anti-Blair campaign. Maybe I was wrong.
Jerome a Paris:
You were not wrong (none / 0) It was an anti-Blair campaign, and not an anti-Brit campaign.

But what do you think of the large scale campaign mounted by Britain to get one of the two jobs, and do you think that it's amongst the first countries we should look to for a candidate for these EU-wide jobs? Why did the "no one from the big countries" somehow did not apply to the UK?

And can you not admit that for some people, it was also legitimately about him being a anti-EU Brit, even if we agreed to downplay this?

Actually, I didn't like to see the amount of generic anti-British (not anti-Blair) animosity among the Stop Blair! signatories' comments. We basically got 20 thousand Eurosceptic little Englanders who hated Blair more than the EU, and 20 thousand anti-Brit people. It was not fun to read. As I put it,
It's not that he was an anti-EU Brit. It's that being a Brit he proved he was anti-EU by failing to make the case for the EU to his fellow citizens when he enjoyed an immense amount of political capital.


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:09:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That may be, but I think it's going too far to impugn members of ET as xenophobic anti-Brits.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:19:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Impeach me.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:21:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:27:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"As for the others, they are based on Ashton as an official representative of the United Kingdom in the EU. Not on her Britishness as a person."

Absolutely! I am a Frenchman who moved to the UK when it would be clear that I would not be getting any better career prospects from the move (quite the contrary in fact) and am about to go to the pub to meet a bunch of friends who, when I met them, had the reaction that I seemed British to them. I'll spend Christmas in Cheddar. I was, before moving to London, and ICC qualified cricket umpire. I have read more words in English than French since I turned 14. There is nothing in me against Brits per se -and I'm sure it's the same with the other people being quoted.

Maybe some signatures in the Stop Blair campaign came from people who genuinely hate the Brits (I'd guess it's actually directed more against the English btw), but we are not responsible for them.

Symbols and context do matter in politics. The campaign by the UK to have at all cost one of the two positions was ungainly. And as for the symbol, I may quote myself:

"For those who claim that this is being anti-Brit on sight, how do you think the UK would have reacted to seeing the command of operations in Irak given to a French general? Even a competent one mind you. Then, add to that that France would have demanded it be given the position."

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cyrille:
Symbols and context do matter in politics. The campaign by the UK to have at all cost one of the two positions was ungainly.
As was the reaction to Ashton's appointment unbecoming of ET.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:28:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You haven't answered my questions to you upthread:


But what do you think of the large scale campaign mounted by Britain to get one of the two jobs, and do you think that it's amongst the first countries we should look to for a candidate for these EU-wide jobs? Why did the "no one from the big countries" somehow did not apply to the UK?



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:45:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess we're all afraid of the Eurosceptics and their likely 2010-2014 tenure in the UK government.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:54:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is the EU scared of the British eurosceptics, again? If they won't get in, they should get out. That shouldn't be the EU's problem.

And no, that's not about Britain. I take precisely the same line when I hear Danish eurosceptics piss and moan about the €, or hear the Danish government demand an a la carte opt out from judicial cooperation (which as it happens they only do because they want to be in Frontex but don't want to accept any of the refugees that Frontex picks up in the Mediterranean).

Although I'll grant that Britain has better reasons to not be in the € than Denmark, on account of not already being pegged to the D-mark.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:43:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And your quotes from these comments are cherry-picked and out of context.

Jerome asked the question Why a Brit? to answer it with the information that there was probably a trade-off for France involved:

Jerome a Paris:

It looks like the trade off is that Michel Barnier will be getting the Commissioner for the Internal Market and Financial Regulation

Crazy Horse continued his comment I feel robbed, or raped, with:

Crazy Horse:

What ever has Britain done to enhance operation of the European Union?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:16:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's okay, Jérôme himself said clearly it is legitimate to be anti-Brit even if you agree to downplay it. I'm clearly out of line here.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do I detect the smell of burning martyr?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:30:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot reply to that without being rude.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Jérôme himself said clearly it is legitimate to be anti-Brit

I explained (in more than a little bit of detail) why it was legitimate to fight against a stronger representation of UK appointees in the top European posts, and you call that being "anti-Brit"?

And I hope you won't respond by quoting again my "anti-Brit" title because that's not an argument and you know it.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:50:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
why all this pissy innuendo from you and Colman?
What innuendo? The charge is pretty clear.

And, would you mind counting the number of unabashedly anti-Brit comments in the last 24 hours?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:36:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's innuendo when you speak of another ET member without naming them and without a link. And no, I'm not counting anti-British comments. I've given my analysis of the reasons for being anti-British in an EU context. Now you back your own assertions up and show where British citizens have been denigrated as sucH.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:39:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ashton has been repeatedly and consistently denigrated for being a Brit.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:40:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nonsense. People have expressed disappointment that the UK got a top post. Not the same thing.

Where are the big bad creep-crawlies you (and apparently Colman) see?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:44:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 10:52:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ie an official representative of the UK government, embodying the policies of the UK government.

If you can't see the difference, I can't help you.

And saying that other countries also send people that embody their governments and their policies is not an acceptable retort, given how different the consistent UK government's approach to the EU is to pretty much every other government's.

If Brown had been pushing for a UK citizen with a track record of working or spending political capital for the EU (say, to take vaguely plausible exemples, Chris Patten or Kenneth Clarke), then theinr nationality would have been less of an issue.

But if you can't see how the European Council giving in and placating the most anti-EU country in the union at this point in time can be perceived by me and others as grating and unpleasant, I'll just say, "bah."

(you'll answer with your stock answer that no rational dialogue is possible when narratives are clashing, and I'll answer that you can't possibly be serious....)(then you'll say I'm putting words in your mouth, to which I answer "duh")

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:29:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only personalised anti-Brit comments I have seen have been Vladimir's on Ashton's appearance - a poor attempt at a joke - and Migs' comment on Blair's teeth.  All other comments have been couched in terms of "why allocate one of the top posts to a nominee from the UK given their history of opposing the European Project" or queries as to whether Ashton's lack of high level electoral, foreign policy, or indeed European experience qualified her for the job when there seemed to be other more qualified candidates or potential candidates around.

As Jerome has stated, the brief was to find a female, at least nominally left wing candidate to complement the appointment of Van Rompuy and two other centre right men to key European posts.  In the end she had to be British as well to get Brown to ditch Blair.

To criticise her appointment or query her qualifications is not to be sexist, extreme leftwing, or anti- British.  It is to query why the price of not appointing Blair had to be the appointment of another British candidate (there are 25 other member states in the EU all with legitimate claims to push their nominees).  

If she turns out to be a nuLabour Atlanticist are we to be labelled anti-Brit, sexist, extreme socialists for criticising her?  If she turns out to be not very good at developing and projecting a coherent EU foreign policy around the world or achieving public support for same, are we to be debarred from pointing out that well, actually, she never had senior prior foreign policy experience, never did more than inherit an already well developed trade negotiating brief, and never led a public election campaign to achieve popular endorsement for any particular policy agenda?

Is it not elitist and contemptuous of democratic politics and absurdly racist to discount the claims of 25 other member states to the post on the grounds that it has to be a Brit who is not particularly well qualified for the post and who has never seen fit to seek a popular mandate for anything?  This is politics we are talking about here, not administration, and ultimately what the citizens of Europe think and feel and believe and perceive IS important even if some intellectuals want to tell them they are all ignorant and wrong and have no right to disagree with their expert analysis.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 12:50:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
the price of not appointing Blair

This turn of phrase got me thinking. This thread strikes me as having less assumption of good faith and more tiredness then usually on ET. Could it be that we did win - we got our stated goal of stopping Blair - but not much more. We did not get Robinson, or any other really good one. We got what the political machinery delivers - a rightist and a NuLabor - given where the political power rests. And then faultlines in our own not to stable coalition (and the perceived coalition formed with others around the petition) becomes easy targets for frustration over the general situation (and pies, though we have failed to drag the americans into it for once).

To be clear I am not trying to analyse any of the posters, just describing how I see the threads climate and trying to understand it. If I am right, what we need is a new concrete goal. Blair defeated, what is next on the agenda?

Or to quote the immortal poet:
The battle's done and we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 03:15:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The kossacks have a lovely pipe dream about having a 3-4 people "bench list" of progressive candidates that are prepared and vetted in advance - so that whenever a Republican-in-Democratic-clothing shows his true colours, they have a guy ready and waiting in the wings for the next primary.

That's probably inapplicable in a European context, due to the differences in our political traditions (except perhaps in England, where they do FPTP?). But it gives a nice meter-stick to measure ambitions against.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 10:51:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:14:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's this now, mysogyny?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Misogyny? Are you kidding? I love women. Especially the beautiful half dressed type.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Warnings from Colman, Dodo & Migeru? I see there's no tolerance for a little humour. Lighten up guys... You're taking yourselves too seriously.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:11:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strop assuming that what you find funny is funny and not revolting for others.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:15:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Revolting? Now that's funny.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:28:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about offensive and disrespectful to the women who also contribute to ET?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:40:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh? I offended the women who post on ET? How so?
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 02:02:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I get a "warning" grade for THIS comment from DoDo. This is a Communist Comedy!
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:26:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's like saying that I've been disrespectful to all Brits because I said that "Tony Blair is an ugly jerk". Bollocks.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:24:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would I want to contribute to a blog where it is acceptable for anyone to make such a degrading remark about a woman and for it to go unchallenged?  

The fact that a number of people have said to you in various ways that such a remark is out of line here does not mean that we are all PC, OTT and having hissy fits over nothing.  

Why do you even see the need to comment on her looks at all? If we tolerate that kind of comment, then it appears everywhere - which is exactly what happens to women politicians in the media.  As soon as they show their faces, their policies don't matter, just their looks, boobs, shoes, dresses.  I'm sick to death of that, it is a reflection of how our society views and devalues women.

If you can't accept that we don't wish to perpetuate that devaluation of women on ET then go somewhere that doesn't give a shit.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:50:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you even see the need to comment on her looks at all?

Because I'm a human being and a male. Human beings attribute a lot of importance to looks - whether they be the looks of their partners, their colleagues, their friends or indeed their politicians. In fact, I've read entire business reports on the subject which conclude that those with better looks have a much better chance of succeeding in whatever they do than those who look like crap. In politics especially, our society is presented a packaged image of individuals to vote for. Content comes second place - if it comes at all. It's all about the image. If you can't handle a comment like mine about the physical traits of Lady Ashton then I guess you must experience a lot of frustration in our post-modern society.

Does not mean that we're all PC or OTT...

That's an interesting one, really. I live a relatively privileged life and mingle with many cultivated people. Discussions where sexist humour has been interjected (not necessarily by me) have taken place on occasions - and not once has the crowd reacted with such collective badgering and bullying. Not once. So I can only conclude one of the following:

  1. Those who call themselves "ET-ers" adhere to group-think values
  2. ET has rebuffed all those who do not think and act like "ET-ers" creating, in the process, a group which shares very common (if not identical) values

That's all fine & well, but inbreeding has never contributed to innovation.

If you can't accept that we don't wish to perpetuate that devaluation of women on ET then go somewhere that doesn't give a shit.

That proves my point.

by vladimir on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 03:39:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being "cultured" is not the same thing as having good taste and not being misogynistic. Just look at baroque era architecture and Victorian high society, respectively.

And some things that fly (or at least are allowed to slide) in face to face conversation translate poorly to the online format.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 04:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
vladimir:
I live a relatively privileged life and mingle with many cultivated people.

Colour me astounded.

If we find ourselves unable to live up to your exclusive and cultured standards of diversity and tolerance, is it too much to hope that you'll be spending more time with those who do?

It's certainly too much to hope that you might understand that one of hallmarks of privilege is taking secret - and sometimes not so secret - pride in transgressive and inappropriate behaviour.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 04:48:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I live a relatively privileged life and mingle with many cultivated people.
See how we envy you.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 05:14:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comment just blew me away.
by vladimir on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 05:36:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

ET is not whatever group of people you consider cultivated may be, it's a public online forum. It is moderated by user ratings and by an editorial team. To post here, you accept that. If you don't accept it, then don't post here. It's not something we are going to spend days arguing about.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 09:33:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I did notice the second degree. Even though in that particular case I did not find it funny I wouldn't want to be too PC and admit that someone else might have found it humorous.

In that case, I suggest you make it abundantly clear, with something like '(('macho vladimir'))' (without the ' of course), which would have appeared as [vladimir's Macho Moment of the Day™ Technology]

I guess this would have helped somewhat.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:01:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

Lightening up the place with humour is fine, and I'm a great fan of that. What is not fine is humour grounded in disparaging how a woman is "supposed" to "look" to be considered female.

by Nomad on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nope, that's machism. subtle difference.

Pierre
by Pierre on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:35:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Women on the site will be forgiven for perhaps not wishing to notice the difference.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:47:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its neither machism nor is it mysoginy. "Machism" isn't an English word. It's a French word which is used to describe a male who projects his virility and tends to believe that women are his inferiors.

There was nothing "machist" is the photo I posted nor in the accompanying comment - which was simply to say that, in my opinion, Ashton lacks feminine traits. Indeed, the woman is, in my opinion, ugly. Saying this is what - politically incorrect? Machist? Misogynous? WTF?

Why should my photo and comment be interpreted as being more "machist" than the entire discussion above around Ashton's "token" appointment because she's female? If you read Ashton's speech accepting her nomination and responding to her detractors, you will notice that she does not say ANYWHERE that she was chosen because she is a woman. Any "warnings" distributed those comments? Noooo.

I have nothing to say on the "misogynous" accusation since it is so obviously devoid of any sense.

Thank you to ThatBritGuy for understanding and appreciating a bit of humour. What a relief.

by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:09:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
vladimir:
Indeed, the woman is, in my opinion, ugly.
On which grounds she presumably shouldn't have gotten the job, or what?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:14:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe we should have had a beauty contest instead.

For the men as well.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:17:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well...
The EU is good at functional politics, but very bad at narrative politics, with theatre and pageantry. Theatre and pageantry are stupid and annoying, but very necessary.


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who cares if the men we appoint are feminine?

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:27:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who said anything about being feminine?

Swimsuits should, however, be obligatory.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:29:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well that depends on who's under the swimsuit. Oops, here goes another zero... I mean warning.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:32:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that is a good idea. Because it is obviously ok for the media to tear female politicians apart because of their clothes, hair and looks but it doesn't get done to male politicians.

Though in the interests of gender equality I have on a at least two occasions voiced my objection to Geert Wilders purely on the basis of his horrible hair.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 12:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, a female with Geert Wilders' hair would have been ridiculed too.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:02:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing to do with the job at hand Migeru. I'm sure she'll do a fine job - ugly or beautiful.

One more time... the discussion was about the role that her sex had in getting her appointed. My comment was that she didn't look all that female. It was funny for some... grotesque to others. C'est la vie. That's all there was to it. No misogyny. No machism. Just a bit of (unfunny) humour. At least it made two people laugh!! And 6 distribute yellow cards??????

by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"You have no sense of humor" is the defense of a bully.  Get over it.

I don't much care what word is used to describe it, and I also don't care who you find attractive or not.  Her appearance has no relevance to her ability to do the job, or to why she was selected for it.  Aside from being fundamentally sexist, "jokes" about how powerful or influential women "aren't feminine" are as tired and unimaginative as they get.  Yawn.  Great sense of humor you've got there, pal.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:23:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh... and have you heard any European leader say that she was elected because she's female? So why are you discussing it?

It was a joke.

by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:26:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
have you heard any European leader say that she was elected because she's female?

Zapatero.

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

by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 12:25:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In this very thread, too.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 12:28:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Misogynous
then machist
and now..... bully!
This is getting better and better.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:27:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you ticked so many people the wrong way, maybe you shouldn't look for a problem in them...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 12:26:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not that I ticked so many people off. It's that so many people on this thread follow the typical behaviour patterns of the common herd.

When there's an individual who defends a position which isn't "The Party Line" the "mob" (no hard feelings) gangs up for a lynching. It's been done to many a contributor. Just look at The Brit Guy... he's been what, posting on ET for years now and he mistakenly gave a 4-Excellent grade to the Ashton photo when he meant to give a 0... yeah right. When he realised that he was on the "mob's" wrong side, he turned his coat.

Whatever. Your community, your friends, your rules - which, by the way are applied unfairly. But there have been many fantastic essays and books written on the subject. I recommend "Le terrorisme intellectual" from jean Sevillia (dunno if it's been translated to English). Read it. Have fun... oh and have a nice WE.

by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh Lord, I am really detecting the smell of burning martyr.

Call it groupthink, herd mentality, or whatever makes you feel better, but you should realize that the kind of humour you attempted there does not go down well on ET.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:47:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, you speak for ET. You ARE ET.

"Le ET c'est moi!"

by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 02:03:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd suggest you download our TribExt extension, install it, and see what happens if you give someone a 0 and then click on Cancel.

I suppose I should be flattered that you thought I was the only one who appreciated your fine sense of comedy, before crumbling under the Stalinist demands of peer pressure.

But sadly - no.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:58:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How funny!
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:59:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So this sort of thing happens often to you then? I mean, voting 4 when you in fact wanted to vote 0...
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:21:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drop it, you're trolling.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:27:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn - that was meant to be a clear zero, not a four.

Fixed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are no zeros.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:29:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now you're taunting for a zero rating. twice. That's called trolling. Stop it.

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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have any comment to make about Van Rompuy's looks?

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:24:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah. He's kind of cute.
by vladimir on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:21:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
their loud and extensive campaign to grab one of the two new jobs had to be seen with suspicion

"On that, there was no evidence to suspect anything other than Blair's megalomania."

That is not the whole story: as soon as Blair's chances appeared to wobble, the campaign was just as strong to have A Brit in one of the two positions. Milliband was trotted out. And then Ashton.

There was a massive UK campaign to get one of the two top positions. It was not only a Blair megalomania.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On that, there was no evidence to suspect anything other than Blair's megalomania.

It's not like he did it alone. Bliar was backed by a large fraction of the people who ended up backing Ashton, and that does reflect negatively on those people. Which cannot help but reflect negatively on Ashton in turn. This is not (entirely) guilt by association either. Politics is at least partly a patronage game, and I'm not sure I like the thought of somebody backed by Bliar's patrons.

Now, Bliar undoubtedly did call in a lot of favours from his establishment backers. And he does undoubtedly have a fairly precise notion of the location of a respectable number of buried bodies (both literally and figuratively speaking). But he is not a PR deity who can singlehandedly conjure up a campaign of this magnitude. Which means that a lot of his backers did so without having to be compelled by old loyalty or outright blackmail.

That being said, I don't know Ashton, and there's a sufficient number of Old Labour people still around that her party affiliation is not an instant disqualifier in my book.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:16:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Brits do not have an opt-out from the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Only the Danes do. This is a policy post. The Brits have specific ideas on foreign and security policy and want to drive an agenda forward. Although their agenda is questionable, they are not in this area to act as a drag on integration or weaken the EU.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:16:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your second point is a good confirmation of my tak on all this, and also a sign that these people can only imagine Europe speaking with one voice under one scenario: as Washington's poodle.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Should we be banning all the Brits from ET on the grounds they're anti-European because they're British?

WTF is that question doing there?

And this is no anti-British bullshit on my part. I think your comment re anti-Brit, and particularly that question, are excessive.

It was a perfectly fair point, made here but also by diplomats and political leaders in several EU countries, that Britain's choosing to be outside core European institutions and opting out of treaty provisions weakened its legitimacy for major power positions. It was one of the clear reasons for rejecting Blair.

There are also, in my view, the perceptions created by the non-stop barrage of English-language media (and power) noise. A nice journalist lady on France Inter this morning explained that Europe was seeking balance by having a Belgian president of Council and a British HRFASP: "one foot this side of the Channel, one foot on the other". That's balance between 27 countries... There's no doubt in my mind that that reaction is conditioned by Britain perpetually making a heck of a lot more noise than its weight.

This said, I'm not rejecting Ashton. She may turn out to be very good. We'll see.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A nice journalist lady on France Inter this morning explained that Europe was seeking balance by having a Belgian president of Council and a British HRFASP: "one foot this side of the Channel, one foot on the other". That's balance between 27 countries...

What is amusing is that I distinctly recall hearing a Danish foreign policy "analyst1" arguing that Russia could never join the European Union, because Russia's view of participating on an "equal footing" meant "one vote for Russia, one vote for everybody else."

- Jake

1People who are unfamiliar with the Danish version of Newspeak should be aware that "foreign policy analyst" should in most cases be translated as "translator of news and analysis opinion pieces from the BBC, CNN and International Herald Tribune into Danish."

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent story - almost worthy of a Times Editorial - (I jest) which cogent makes the argument for the status quo as it has emerged from Lisbon and the summit which has just concluded.  On the one hand it gives the lie to all the apocalyptic gloom and doom stroies emanating from the left and right parts of the NO campaign in Irteland that the EU was in the process of building a superstate which would strip countries of their identities and force conscription etc. on us all.

The reality is a lot more incremental and prosaic, and the fact that it does play well on TV or sell newspaers is not our problem.

However I would have a couple of cribs.  Both Van Rompuy and Ashton are barely a year into their previous roles as Prime Minister and Trade Commissioner, and so we really have very little evidence of their supposed competence.  Let us hope you are right.

Secondly, and relatedly, neither have obvious accomplishments at a European level.  Baroness Ashton has never been elected to anything and has never served as aq foreign minister or top politician even in the UK.  If you wanted to pick a women Commissioner, why not Neelie Kroes - European Commissioner for Competition - who has some accomplishments in that role?

The truth is that even though these individuals may turn out to be competent, both were very much "lowest common denominator appointments" in the political sense that they had offended no one important.  Ashton got the Gig to persuade Brown to back of Blair and row in behind Van Rompuy.  No other reason.  She's barely known in the UK.  Rompuy got the gig because more long-standing and experienced Prime Ministers had offended someone important somewhere along the way.

IO don't have a problem with low key, or consensus building.  But we needed more evidence of competence and achievement, and even a greater nod to democracy in the case of Ashton.  Let's hope they are as competent as you surmise, but compromise for its own sake isn't necessarily much better than the cult of leadership.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:54:57 AM EST
Keeping Belgium together over the past year surely counts as a very real (and mostly unheralded) achievement by Rompuy - and demonstrates the exact qualities needed for the new job.

As to not having offended anyone, I'd say it is a fundamental prerequisite of the job, given its definition. A Swinging Big Dick, or anyone having pissed off one or more of the big countries  would have been a certain reciped for clashes and crises when the time would come to speak in Europe's name on the next international crisis.

On Ashton, I agree that we need to reserve judgement, but she has demonstrated spine in standing up to the US in trade negotiations in the past year - she had a EU mandate, and proved up to the task, fwiw.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:02:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the claims that Ashton has "no foreign policy experience" are specious. For the past 18 months she's been conducting bilateral trade relations with China, India, Korea, the US, Latin America...

And, as I said yesterday:

I don't actually mind van Rompuy. If he managed to compose a viable government for Belgium after the last parliamentary election he may be just what the Council needs to get its job done.


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 Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:09:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To argue a lack of proven competence over an extended period of time is not the same as arguing for a Big Swinging Dick.  Let's get away from that false dichotomy.  Neither Van Rompuy or Ashton have a track record of arguing for and articulating the interests of the European project on a world stage for any length of time.  And yes, the job may entail upsetting a Brown or a Sarkosy sometime if they engage in some stupid adventure in Afganistan or (almost anywhere - in Sarkozy's case) which has the potential to divide/damage the EU.  How do we know Van Rompuy/Ashton would be up to that job?

Maintaining the status quo or appeasing everyone for the sake of a cosy consensus is not always the right course to take, and it can be argued that it is hard choices which will define the EU as much as technocratic efficiency in the longer term.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:16:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The ideal candidate wasn't an option for this round. They would have to be an anti-Blair, or an anti-Sarkozy, or perhaps an ant-Burlesquoni - charismatic, aggressive, but non-psychotic, and dedicated entirely to the forces of good.

There is no one in mainstream European politics with those qualifications.

So Europe's lapdog status continues for now, at least until the current generation of Atlanticists dies out and is replaced by fresh blood.

The best we can hope for is to start finding and supporting the fresh blood, with a view to 2020 or 2030.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if such a person existed, the governments wouldn't let her work against the US anyway. The problem is the zeitgeist, not the person.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:29:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
which is why the current low-key choices are actually a good thing for Europe, by at least minimizing the chances for big blowups between the EU and big countries.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:32:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The current low-key choices are good for Europe internally as a holding action, while the EU coheres. Apart from his stated hostility to Turkey, Van Rompuy seems to be perfect, or at least good enough, for that.

But there's a continuing tension between scrappy charisma-politics, which is what happens at the national level in the EU, and the amorphous and not very well-defined push towards federalisation.

At some point those two trends are going to be personalised in a very public clash.

Blair would have forced that collision ahead of time, which would have been unpleasant for everyone, but interesting to watch.

The democratic problem hasn't been solved - Van Rompuys doesn't give the proles a reason to believe in the EU. That's not a huge problem now, but it's going to start becoming a problem within a term or two.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:36:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming there's a push towards federalisation.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's usually called 'closer cooperation.'
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:20:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There will be a push towards either federalisation or split-up. Having a (mostly) federal monetary policy without a complementing independent federal fiscal policy is inherently unstable. So either you need a federal fiscal policy, or the € needs to go away.

Besides, there are real issues of infrastructure and regional development that would benefit from federal involvement - high-capacity/high speed railways, water management along the Rhine and Donau rivers, fishing and environmental protection in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, trans-European communications, phone and internet backbones, trans-European power generation and distribution and so on and so forth and etcetera.

Nationalists of all flavours can bitch and moan as much as they like - but geography and infrastructure are more powerful drivers in political unification than zeitgeist.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 09:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Van Rompuys doesn't give the proles a reason to believe in the EU.

Nor should he -- I am more concerned that MEPs and Barroso fail to.

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

by DoDo on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 07:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the one hand it gives the lie to all the apocalyptic gloom and doom stroies emanating from the left and right parts of the NO campaign in Irteland that the EU was in the process of building a superstate which would strip countries of their identities and force conscription etc. on us all.

Last night one of the people that BBCs Newsnight chose to interview was that fool who is head of UKIP. Their angle was that it had brought about this European Superstate, but it was going to be something of a Blundering Elephant, with no one  strong enough to steer it, and passengers like Sarkozy (Who he mentioned specifically) being able to take over and push it in directions that were bad for the people of Britain. (why British prime ministers werent going to be able to do something similar and do something good for Britain maybe says more about the calibre of current British politicians)

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

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:23:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or perhaps it is part of Farage's raison d'etre and job description to run down British politicians from other UK parties and foster xenophobia by creating the myth of the big bad foreigner who is going to take over the UK?

The fact that the best he can do is pick on Sarkozy as the new Adolf Hitler is an amusement in itself...

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:48:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done!  I know nothing of the people you have elected/appointed to office and I have NO DESIRE to know anything about them.  They are either your problem or your asset.  At least it's NOT BLAIR and you may hoist a beer/glass of wine in the comfort that you may have played a part in Blair's failure.  If that is TRUE, then can ET parlay that influence into something tangible for the future?  Who of significance was paying attention to ET?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:57:03 AM EST
Probably no one of great significance. But we just about helped sneak into the media the meme that Blair was a most unpopular choice.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 08:54:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... we just about helped sneak into the media ...
?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:49:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's all we managed to do. The petition fitted into a narrative some media were willing to go with. So the notion that Blair riled people up got out there and became part of the mix.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 11:54:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been back through the various diaries and threads pertaining to last night's "intentional walk" by the EU powers (it's a baseball term, pertaining to not being willing to pitch to a key opponent). since my open disgust, rather frustration, has been central to arguments here, i'm forced to respond.

PFickoff.

Most of what i posted was not an attempt at being rational, it was an outpouring of frustration. Including the backstory of the ineptitude of progressive politics to make much headway anywhere in the world. I still can't get over having The Guido represent the country i live in, or that the "social left" in Yurp still can't get its story straight.

Today i still FEEL shitty about the picks, and even though raped might not have been the most appropriate word choice, it did express how i felt.

The closest i got to rationality was in writing about the EU's missed opportunity, and perhaps in questioning the wisdom of a UK appointment, not to mention a possibly capable lightweight Peer.

How this became an anti-Brit theme is beyond me. As afew tried to point out, it was a political opinion about Britain's place in the current EU, which wrongly or rightly, i still hold.  Frank's arguments were also political and rational.

I did take offense at Migeru's characterizations, making some comment about me being a prominent anti-nuclear something here, and taking my comments completely out of context. And also how he responded to Frank.

I didn't understand how Colman got his dander up, but easily recognized he never pushed it.  non-issue.

I was so frustrated by this discussion that i was considering telling the truth, how i do hate brits as much as i hate niggers, kikes, gypsies and fuckin redskins, not to mention malaysians, mothers and bayern münchen. Thankfully i didn't post that.

(See how much you pissed me off, Migs?)

And i'm still not certain Baroness Ashton is my choice for addressing the EU's interest in Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Laredo, Shanghai and other global hot spots, not to mention dealing with restructuring global finance and warming.  although of course her trade negotiation experience will come in handy setting EU positions between Russia and Ukraine.

Pfick, i don't know why i just took an hour to read and write this post, i don't care if i get skewered.  You all should have listened to The Roches video last night.

PS. I hate women too, and engineers, and space debris. and cleaning out chicken shacks. and people who can't understand another's viewpoint before...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:47:22 PM EST
Cleaning out chicken shacks really stinks.

Peace, CH.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:07:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... about nukes!

:)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 04:59:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Weapons?  power plants? or microwave ovens?

(kevin costner and susan sarandon in Bull Durham)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:36:15 PM EST
omigod.  i have actually commented at dKos. with an account set up many years ago, and never used. i will take a bath now, if i had a bath.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 06:50:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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