The Corner

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Metternich 2013


From a brutal commentary in Der Spiegel on the tenure of Catherine Ashton, the dreary Blairite toady who became the EU’s “foreign minister”:

Catherine Ashton likes to deal personally with the important matters affecting the European External Action Service (EEAS). Recently Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, took the elevator to the ground floor of her agency’s Brussels headquarters and marched into the building’s inner courtyard. A pavilion there allows smokers to stay dry even on rainy days. On this particular one, though, it wasn’t raining in Brussels for once, and a few EU employees stood smoking outside the structure. They were more than a little surprised when Ashton appeared in front of them and asked that they please step inside the pavilion, because otherwise their cigarette smoke would waft into the offices on the building’s upper floors.

This was one of the rare moments when the diplomats of the European External Action Service (EEAS) laid eyes on their boss in person. Ashton is usually so busy that even her spokesperson, when asked about the high representative’s whereabouts, once answered, “We don’t know, but she’s definitely working.”

But there’s a silver lining to this clod. Under the EU’s constitution Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s “high representative for foreign affairs” (to give Ashton her full title) is supposed to be in charge of developing the EU’s foreign policy, an insolent and presumptuous idea, as the EU — not being a nation and, therefore, having no legitimate national interests — should not have a foreign policy. And that, paradoxically, is why Ashton was perfect for the job. By and large she was too ineffectual to get in the way of (democratically accountable) national foreign ministers doing their job.

Choosing her replacement could  therefore come with its perils.

Der Spiegel explains:

[T]wo candidates — Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt, both of whom have many years of foreign policy experience — are already warming up for the race. The two politicians are known to have no shortage of self-confidence and, unlike Ashton, are unlikely to be content with simply compiling the opinions of the member states’ foreign ministers.

And that’s why they should be rejected out of hand. Sikorski and Bildt are tough, bright and capable politicians, and both are eurofundamentalists (Sikorski more recently than Bildt: The Swedish Moderaterna were infected with that particular virus years ago) far too talented to be given an EU job in which they might actually do something.


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