Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

A new candidate for foreign minister of the EU

Adelina Marini, August 6, 2009

The last British governor of Hong Kong and former European Commissioner, responsible for the external affairs of the EU Lord Chris Patten is the latest nomination for a European foreign minister, foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty. However, the new treaty is still pending entering into force which will happen after and if the Irish approve it on the second referendum on the issue which will be held in October. The treaty is still to be ratified by Germany and the Czech Republic as well. For the Financial Times Lord Patten had announced that he was ready to take the job if he was offered to.

According to the newspaper, he is a good candidacy because of his deep knowledge of the internal affairs in the EU and its foreign policy. If the Lisbon Treaty is to be approved, this will heat up the Autumn because serious bargaining will start for some key EU positions. For the highest one is for president of the Council which will replace the 6-month rotating presidencies of member states, the most frequently mentioned name is that of the former British prime minister Tony Blair.

In an editorial the FT recalls the famous remark of the former American secretary of state Henry Kissinger who is said to have demanded to know what telephone number he could ring to talk to the then European Economic Community in Brussels. Bu the paper writes that, in fact, the necessary phone numbers that the US secretaries of state should know are three instead of just one, because the key positions in the EU that are still looking for nominations are: the president of the Commission (for now the current president Jose Manuel Barroso is the only candidacy for a second term), the semi-permanent president of the European Council and, to put it roughly, the Eu's foreign minister who will replace 2 positions that were in many fields duplicating their functions - the position of the High Representative for foreign and security policy and the Commissioner for external affairs.

Of the three the FT considers the third to be the most important because he or she will have a seat in both Council and Commission. He or she will also have a big budget, and a fully-fledged diplomatic service to provide analysis, representation, and early warning. Of all the jobs to be decided this autumn, it looks the most attractive. So where can the Europeans find the superman or superwoman who can go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton (the US secretary of state, doing almost the same job?

So far couple of names have been put into circulation but none has taken a lead. One of them is the foreign minister of Sweden Carl Bildt who has a long international diplomatic career. Although he has a lot of supporters for the French he is too outspoken and for the Russians he is said to be tough on them. Another candidate is the ex foreign minister of Germany Joschka Fischer who is not very popular withing his own country. The outgoing Dutch NATO secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer would be very respectable, liked in Washington, but rather uninspiring, the FT comments.

And now the name of Lord Patten appears and if he is to be proved to be the best nomination the UK will have to drop Tony Blair as candidate for the Council presidency.