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A Baroness to understand
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-11-21 11:32:23
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Why the surprise? Baroness Catherine Ashton’s name has been circulating the halls of the EU offices, the media computers and everybody who might be interest in EU issues for months; so why now everybody looks so surprised and even though everybody knew that she was going straight for the position of the EU’s Foreign minister now they suddenly discover that she has no experience! Actually Gordon Brown had said it pretty clear in the last EU summit, you don’t want Tony Blair now, fine; here is Baroness Catherine Ashton.

But that’s one point that I will return later, regarding now the baroness I know about her as much as everybody knows and it has been published in the net. She seems persistent and motivated and that’s a good start, the rest we will find out later when she will actually has the chance to face the reality of her position and there is no worry, EU has enough problems to give her the chance to prove herself from the very beginning. That’s one thing, the other one is that whoever this baroness is she cannot do worst than the odd couple Barroso -Solana that ruled, manipulated and screwed the European foreign policy the last few years.

The European Union is in a huge crisis and the important thing is to reinvade itself and reconstruct its confused identity, in other words the European Union needs to rebuild itself from inside and the only way to succeed that is through new faces. People away from the bureaucracy that has strangle the union for so long and people without often transparent personal agendas. Perhaps the Belgian PM Herman van Rompuy and Baroness Catherine Ashton are these people, at least until when they show us something else.

Then it is Britain. Despite all the euro-sceptic talk in Britain everybody knows that it is just talk and that the UK is a valuable member of the Union, a founder member and in every sense a powerful ally. If you think that Britain is euro-sceptic now you have no idea what was going on in 80s with Margaret Thatcher. It is one thing to have some euro-sceptics in the parliament and a minority – loud indeed – between the British people, and another to have a British government that thinks that the whole union is there to steal British money and deal with the other members like mindless children like Thatcher’s attitude was to the Union. And putting aside that Gordon Brown wanted a British member in the highest offices of the EU perhaps Baroness Catherine Ashton is Britain’s good chance to bury the euro-sceptic bitch reputation Margaret Thatcher established in Europe so well.

For Gordon Brown was indeed very important to have a Brit in the high offices for the obvious reasons; the labour party is heading for elections seriously wounded and positioning a Brit, actually forcing the partners to accept a Brit in one so high position is what Brown needed. At first it was Tony Blair for the seat of the president but with Berlusconi as the only ally and all the negative reaction from everywhere, Tony was out and the name of Baroness Catherine Ashton was what was left and the talk about her had started long time ago as the British alternative to Tony Blair’s rejection.

One of the arguments against Baroness Catherine Ashton was her pro American attitude till know, something that really made me laugh. Solana was more pro-American than Sarah Palin and Barroso was meeting George W. Bush promising things without bothering to ask the approval of the EU members. Actually their pro-Bush behaviour nearly coasted Europe its unity.

The other argument was that the Union needed known, recognizable and experience people for the higher position to regain the lost international position but that would continue what Barroso and Solana started, a huge failure and a constant cover up of their mistakes. What Europe needs is people who will regain her lost dignity and for that job the Europeans prefer somebody who is less celebrity and more serious even if that means that he is writing Japanese style poems.

I think the only doubt about Baroness Catherine Ashton is her connections with the British foreign office. The European Union doesn’t need a bureaucrat from the foreign office that follows the rules of the empire and sees the world as it was in the 19th century but a modern diplomat, aware of the environmental problems and the globalization of the poverty, a foreign minister who is there to unite the European States and understand the role and the needs of the European citizen in the modern world.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-21 14:56:15
Von Rompuy and Baroness Ashton; to American ears it is ominously redolent of the 18th and 19th centuries, the days of Empire, when aristocracy, nobles oblige, ruled Europe and half of the world; in other words, the old elitist Europe. But then in all fairness, one cannot judge a book by its cover. We’ll have to wait and see if the newly chosen President and Foreign Minister (not elected by the people) turn out to be the fresh new faces with fresh new ideas and awareness of one’s heritage that Europe desperately needs to form a more perfect union, for presently the center does not hold, as the poet Yates put it, and I am afraid that soccer games are not a good substitute for the EU roots and cultural heritage as envisioned by the EU founding fathers and sadly missing in the so called Treaty of Lisbon parading as a visionary constitution of sort. Will fresh faces be enough to solve the intricate problem of European identity? I kind of doubt it. If history is exemplary, it certainly did not work in Italy in the 19th century where first they made Italy and then they made the Italians. They are still two nations (North and South) with a common name.

Emanuel Paparella2009-11-21 15:27:26
P.S. Here is the opinion of a prominent European befoe the selection:

"A Van Rompuy-Ashton ticket would not be welcomed by all however, with Mr Van Rompuy little known outside Brussels and the Baroness, an economist by background, having no personal experience of foreign affairs.

A "minimalist solution" would be a "historic missed opportunity" for the EU to use the Lisbon Treaty to "emerge as a new force on the global stage," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote in his blog earlier on Thursday." Food for thought.

Thanos2009-11-21 23:35:12
I think it is too early to have an opinion for both of them even though Ashton's connection with the British foreign office worries me a bit. But let's see.

Anna2009-11-25 01:50:23
It's more simple than that - the British will design the EU's foreign structure and try to limit its defence options having blocked various missions and preferring the US dominated NATO to lead in this area. Germany through Merkel's EU advisor will try to control as secretary general of the Council in 18 months time. The personalities of the two chosen for the so called top jobs will have little influence in the end.

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