Thursday, 29 October 2009

EU presidency slips away from Blair

The much talked about position of the European Union presidency will come into being if, but increasingly when, the Czech Republic ratifies the Lisbon treaty. The EU as an institution has a chequered history in many respects, especially in terms of its public representation, and i feel that the decision to have a figurehead is a progressive one, yet one which also holds inherent risks. Many in this country hold the organisation to count for its bureaucratic nature and reputation as a paper-pushing body rather than one which formulates policy or that makes important decisions. I think that this interpretation is overly critical, and that has led to ignorance in British politics, most obviously in the form of the BNP who have abused such stereotypes to gain support for wholly unacceptable means. I do however agree that the EU has much to do to be recognised as a political success, in addition to its obvious progress economically. This leads to the Lisbon treaty and the creation of a European figurehead, someone not only to give the union notoriety and respectability, but also to pressurise constituent countries to come to decisions and be actively involved in 'European politics'. This position, and the political results in inspires, may in many ways be a make or break development for the EU.

Tony Blair has recently been proclaimed as a leading candidate for the position of President, eventually gaining public support from former colleagues, such as Gordon Brown and David Milliband. However with Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel both being regarded as 'unenthusiastic', his chances of success seem to be significantly reduced, with the scant conciliation that Silvio Berlusconi, hardly the most respectable and admired of politicians, is happy to back him in the role. However i feel that Blair failing to land this illustrious and ground-breaking role may well be a major setback for Europe.

While i agree that Blair's Iraq war legacy and the generally held, and probably misplaced, belief that he created a world of politics orbiting around spin and deception are flaws to Blair's claim for the presidency, he holds what no other candidate does: prestige. He has been described as an EU president who could 'stop traffic', he is familiar, i would argue generally well respected in politics, and has undoubted charisma and enthusiasm. Tony Blair has been one of the highest paid speakers in the world since retiring from British politics, and people do not usually pay huge sums of money to hear someone they actively despise talk to them. The idea that Blair has no credibility in politics, or evokes negative sentiment from most people when they reflect on his tenure as Prime Minister is simply untrue. Someone of Blair's standing is exactly what the EU needs, someone who can give the mass of people, who at this moment in time see the organisation as bureaucrats being overly paid for setting the correct curvature of a banana, the impression that it is a worthy and respectable organisation which may, if given time and resources, actually create a more cohesive and effective partnership in Europe. This could lead to the entity as a whole being regarded as a major world force, in a way that since the growth of America from 1945 no European country has managed.

Is Tony Blair the perfect candidate for European president? Quite clearly not, however is Tony Blair the most practical solution to the EU's biggest problem of lacking a sheen of respectability amongst the populace of Europe, in my opinion yes. Other candidates, such as Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime minister, lack real notoriety in world politics, and the European Union presidency has the potential to be one of the most important positions internationally. Tony Blair gives this role its only current chance of allowing the EU to succeed politically, providing the partnership with charisma and respectability in its leadership and encouraging more support from across its member states, and across the world.

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