Friday, November 20, 2009

France and Germany - not Belgium and UK - are the real victors of yesterday's EU deal

Ok so I was wrong last night. I had underestimated Fredrick Reinfeldt. The Swedish Prime Minsiter managed to find a consenus and before they even finished eating their line-caught bass. Against the odds, all 27 European leaders agreed on the Council's nomination for Council President and High Representative. I had predicted a majority vote and to be fair there was every reason to think that unanimity would be impossible. After it became clear that Tony Blair could not muster the necessary support, more names were added to the mix. There were calls for the two posts to strike a balance between North and South, East and West, Male and Female, Left and Right. An almost impossible task.

I also predicted that Former French Minister, Elizabeth Guigou would get the Foreign Affairs job. She didn't - it went to Baroness Ashton, the current Trade Commissioner and former Leader of the House of Lords in the UK. Cathy Ashton has won respect for her command of the brief in the 12 months she has been in the Trade job since she stepped in to replace Lord Mandelson. She was well liked by President Barroso who was instrumental in her successful nomination (she will be Vice President of the Commission as well as representing the Council on foreign policy).

I predicted that Van Rompuy - the unassuming Belgian premier would get the President job - so one out of three aint bad. Mr Van Rompuy is the ultimate consensus candidate. He won't stop the traffic but he will be a stabilising force and will be more than able to broker agreements between member states on european legislation.

Mr Van Rompuy was championed by Sarkozy and Merckel who were keen to prevent a high-profile President (such as Tony Blair) who would steal some of their lime-light. The new Franco-German alliance was successful in getting their Stop-Blair candidate through but I think equally so in allowing the British to think they have done well out of getting the second prize. The High Representative job is potentially very powerful but the British originally wanted an influential economic or industrial post. However, the French have a clear run at the Internal Market position - a role long coveted by Sarkozy and the Germans may go for Trade or stay with industry. Between them they will have removed the anglo-saxon domination of European economic policy of recent years.

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