Lisbon Treaty revisited-First president of the European Council

Herman Van Rompuy, is the first president of the European Council. The little known, low key Belgian prime minister, was appointed with the support of France and Germany after support for other contenders, including Tony Blair fell away.

We may never know the exact support for Tony Blair as politicians are politicians after all and the appointment was not exactly open and transparent. Many however will speculate as to why Tony Blair was not elected. Some Europeans might say it was due to Tony Blair's support for the Iraq war.  Not only that, but our own poor record as Europeans may have had something to do with his non-election.  We have not exactly embraced the EU with open arms and as a country we do not use the EU's common Euro currency, nor do we participate in the principle of the passport-free zone.  It must be difficult to come across as an enthusiastic European when your own country has opted out of what some European countries see as important EU principles.

Herman Van Rompuy, has been described as dull, uninteresting and a poor orator and politically to the right of centre politics. He seems to fit the bill for those EU leaders seeking a low profile chairperson able to greet foreign dignitaries and present an acceptable face to the outside world.  Other countries, including Britain, would have preferred a high profile role requiring a well known figure who could take a place on the world stage.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have been clearly identified as supporters of Rompuy.

We were however much more successful with the appointment of Lady Ashton to the second key post of high representative for foreign policy. This post was created under the terms of the recently ratified Lisbon Treaty.

Some will say that the Lisbon Treaty is rather vague about the role of the newly created president of the European Council.  So we must wait and see how the post evolves.  What is perhaps more clear is that the EU's foreign minister is potentially a much more powerful figure.  Already Baroness Cathy Ashton has been likened to Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel as one of the most powerful women in world politics.  Little over a year ago she was the Leader of the House of Lords and a junior member of the cabinet until her appointment as a trade commissioner for the last year serving in Brussels. In her new role she will represent the foreign policy interests of half a billion EU citizens and will have to grapple with such international time bombs as Iran's nuclear programme, the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine not to mention Afghanistan and the need for a unified policy.

Gordon Brown says Lady Ashton's appointment shows that we are at the heart of Europe.  Well is that a good thing or not?  In the meantime, for those of you who want some answers to your questions go to the link on the right hand side:  Q & A The Lisbon Treaty.

Herman Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton after their appointment as EU president and foreign minister

Van Rompuy and Ashton chosen to lead EU




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