Tuesday, December 01, 2009, the day history will remember when….. Lisbon came into effect in Europe. Is that a historic event or?.....
After eight years of negotiations the treaty was ratified in November when the Czechs gave the final nod. That’s great and all, but there has been raging debate over the new appointments the treaty creates (a permanent president of the European Council and a high representative for foreign affairs). The president will be the current Belgian prime minster Herman Van Rompuy and the high representative will be the current EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton, from Britian. Who?
I thought one of the main reasons for adopting this treaty was to move the EU - as a whole - to more of an “on par” position with the US. If that’s true the appointments seem somewhat odd, but nevertheless expected given the variety of personalities that are represented in EU leadership (i.e. Merkel, Sarkozy, etc…). Clearly not everyone in Europe is ready to hand over their foreign influence. Both of these new positions will be tough. President Rompuy will be spending most of his time putting out the fires of EU internal disputes while the high representative will be working on aid, energy security, and climate change. The high representative also gets to wield a fancy new diplomatic core known as the European External Action Service (EEAS).
This is multivocality on a whole new level. “Domestic” in Europe is not really a term that makes much sense on a continental level. Being sensitive to how audiences receive messages in Europe is not a singular question – Europe IS international - and far more complex than say…. US domestic understanding.
Neither of the two new EU leaders have control over defense, tax, foreign policy, or social security in any member states. As eavesdroppers to these recent developments the US and the rest of the world will have to wonder where to turn when issues bleed over. Say in… defense and energy security. Without strong leadership from the representatives they will - more than likely - be placated, pushed to the side, and ignored by more forceful members of the EU who will want to pursue their own “real” domestic agendas. Remember, these two were not “elected.” They were appointed as the options the power players in the EU could agree on. Not really a position one loves to fulfill given the variety of interests.