The Former British Premier, Mr. Toni Blair, is being touted as candidate for the first three-year Presidency of the European Council. He has at least one very strong proponent in the French President, Mr. Sarkozy. An article in the Guardian suggests that Mr. Blair is seriously considering a candidacy.
If Mr. Blair would be chosen the Council of Ministers would be headed for at last 3 years by the former leader of a country which is neither a member of the Schengen area, nor of the EMU. Mr. Blair himself is personally responsible for Britain’s opting out of important parts of the Reform Treaty (through which the Presidency post was created!), notably the European Charter on Fundamental Rights and the cooperation in the judiciary areas. (The Foreign Minister of the successor government, Mr. Milliband, strikes a belligerent tone in his defence of “the red lines” intended to protect Britain from European influence.)
The Irish statesman and previous Director General of the WTO, Mr. Peter Sutherland, har recently published an essay with the title: “Fog in Westminster, Europe Cut Off” (pdf) where he warns that the British EU-policies under the Labour Government would lead to a de fact detachment of Britain from Europe. (Mr. Sutherland regrets this – a case could be made, however, for a British semi-withdrawal from the EU expediting and facilitating the cooperation within the Union.)
Apart from the distinctly anti-European policies of Mr. Blair (and his chief minion Mr. Straw) the idea of a Blair Presidency repels many people on other grounds. A web site called European Tribune is preparing a Europe-wide petition against the candidacy of Mr. Blair. In addition to critizing Mr. Blair’s standing on European issues the petition text says:
In violation of international law, Tony Blair committed his country to a war in Iraq that a large majority of European citizens opposed. This war has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims and displaced millions of refugees. It has been a major factor in today’s profound destabilisation of the Middle East, and has weakened rather than strengthened world security. In order to lead his country into war, Mr Blair made systematic use of fabricated evidence and the manipulation of information. His role in the Iraq war would weigh heavily on the image of the Union in the world, should he in fact be named its president.
The steps taken by Tony Blair’s government, and his complicity with the Bush administration in the illegal programme of “extraordinary renditions”, have led to an unprecedented decline in civil liberties. This is in contradiction with the terms of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is an integral part of the treaty.
The creation of a multiannual President of the Council of Minister is of course dependent on the ratification of the Reform Treaty which is far from assured. Nevertheless, it is interesting to speculate about the reaction of the Nordic countries to this question, should it become a reality. Mr. Blair can be confident of the absolute loyalty of Denmark. The previous Swedish Government always acted as Mr. Blair’s devoted and subservient follower. The present conservative government would not be likely to kick up a fuss over the issue but it might also fall in the hands of a new leftist Government where the position of a Foreign Minister Wallström or Eliasson would be less clear. Finland never causes any trouble if it can avoid it.
The greatest threat to a Blair candidacy may come from within his own country. British media speculate in a revenge by Mr. Brown on his long-time rival. As the Guardian points out Ms. Merkel as well as some other leaders (even Mr. Rasmussen of Denmark) would not do anything that could alienate Mr. Brown.
Apart from Mr. Juncker of Luxemburg, no other serious candidates seem to be under discussion. As we assume that European leaders are reading this blog we would like to nominate former Dutch Premier, Mr. Wim Kok, an upright and an experienced person and a devoted European.