November 19, 2009
Apparently Herman Van Rompuy is still leading the pack as the frontrunner for the EU President job – especially now that Merkel and Sarkozy are doing their best to stitch it up for him.
However, the sticking point is who would partner him as Foreign Minister to make up a ‘dream ticket’ that ticks all of the boxes of the horse trading behind the scenes to ensure the process favours no single bloc too heavily (regional balance, political balance, gender balance, big/small balance etc.)
The surprise is that the UK’s EU Trade Commissioner, Baroness Catherine Ashton, could be creeping up as a wild card for a late burst onto the summit scene in the role of EU Foreign Minister. With an Ashton/Rompuy ticket, it would mean that the newer member states would miss out – so that could still prove to be a sticky wicket over dinner tonight.
The EU Foreign Minister could well turn out to be even more influential than the EU President, with a budget of up to £45bn and a diplomatic staff of 7,000 to wield at their disposal. And this is a candidate who has never run for office in her political career, nor for so much as the President of the PTA (as far as we know): an EU Foreign Minister who has never had to face the electorate nor had experience representing the interests of a single constituent.
So in a funny way she is just the person for an unelected and unaccountable job like this. But hang on, why are we surprised at all? Maybe this is her reward for pushing the Lisbon Treaty through the House of Lords when she was leader of the House last Spring. In fact, maybe she had her eye on the cushy new job all along?? Who knows.
Update: PA reports that Gordon Brown has ditched Tony Blair for EU President in order to back Catherine Ashton for Foreign MinisterOpen Europe blog team