Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dutch PM Balkenende candidacy for the EU Presidency

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the centre of the EU

In Brussels, the Capital of the European Union (EU) a two day EU summit was held. The battle for the position of President of the European Council is becoming serious. Time to ask some questions:

1. What is the EU Council Presidency?
2. How is the EU Council Presidency defined?
3. Who elects the EU Council President?
4. Who are the candidates for the EU Candidacy?
5. Who decide the outcome of the elections for the EU Candidacy?

The new European Council Presidency

Many had been considering that former British PM Blair would become the new President of the European Council.

The Lisbon Treaty and the EU Council Presidency

A new politically more powerful EU was created by the powers invested in the the EU Council Presidency by the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon treaty is expected to be ratified soon.

The election of the EU Council Presidency

The President of the European Council is elected by the members of the European Council. The Presidency of the European Council should not be mixed up with the better known Presidency of the European Commission, which is currently held by President José Manuel Barrosso. This European Commission is a powerful body of European Civil Servants.

The candidates for the EU Council Presidency

The current European Council President is Sweden's Fredrick Reinfeldt. The candidacy of Britain's Tony Blair is losing support. The most important other candidates is Luxembourg's Jean Claude Juncker. The names of more than ten other candidates are mentioned. There have been rumours in The Netherlands that the long serving Dutch Christian Democrat PM Balkenende would become the EU President. These rumours were denied by the Government and Mr. Balkenende himself. Since last Friday 30 October 2009 those who expect Balkenende to move up a step to become the man to occupy the highest political seat in the EU are seeing that their prognosis gets assistance from confirmation by the Dutch PM himself. No, Balkenende has not yet explicitly confirmed that he is a candidate against the UK's Tony Blair. His words were:
It is premature. Perhaps there will be no request and I will not have to consider it (EU Council Presidency)
So there is no formal request. But there is an informal one.

The decision on the EU Council Presidency

The decision lies with the parties in the European Council. The main power deciding the outcome is the European People's Party, an alliance of centre right European Parties led by the German Christian Democrats of Angela Merckel and the French UMP of Sarkozy. They want a weak and compliant President, hailing from a small nation. Someone who has carried a lot of water for their respective power bases. Luxembourg's Jean Claude Juncker fit's this bill very well. The Netherlands' Jan-Peter Balkenende has a long association with the German Christian Democrats. He may be a runner up then. He has a low profile as a modest networker.

In Conclusion

What is perhaps most remarkable about the road to appointing the new Council President is its slippery and downright boggy surface. The Presidency does not have a clear face in the public's eye. It's power is small, mostly of setting the agenda. In its appointment, duration, definition, constituting parts and relation to other EU institutions it is shady.

This is in fact typical of the whole EU, which defies getting grasped by the people it is supposed to represent. It is a bog and a labyrinth at the same time.

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