Lisbon Treaty: Single voice or cacophony?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Even though the Lisbon Treaty is supposed to clear up the EU decision-making process, the roles of the European Commission president, the European Council president, the EU foreign policy chief and the rotating Council president should still be defined, Stanley Crossick explains in a November post on Blogactiv.

“We now have our new treaty, which is supposed to enhance the EU’s ability to act by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its institutions and decision-making process. At last, third countries will deal with a more unified entity; and will know the telephone number to call. Or so we dream…

What do we have in fact? Member-state leaders bargaining behind close doors on filling the posts of European Council president and foreign policy chief, before clarifying their respective roles. And seeking understandings on other posts e.g. Council secretary-general. And consensus among the 27 (and the European Parliament and the Commission president) is still being sought. Consensus is desirable, but should not be paramount, inevitably resulting in weaker compromise appointees. It is clear that there is no consensus, and it does no harm to use the democratic tool of voting the best persons for the two jobs.

But what are the two jobs? […] There is a built-in conflict between the roles of European Council president and foreign policy chief. The Lisbon Treaty prescribes for the former a chairperson with an essentially internal job. However, the president also ensures the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the foreign policy chief. This is hardly consistent with the treaty provision that the latter represents the Union in matters relating to the common foreign and security policy, conducts political dialogue with third parties on the Union’s behalf, and expresses the Union’s position in international organisations and at international conferences.

Most major issues have both internal and external dimensions. Who attends, for example, summits with third countries? The Commission president, the European Council president, the foreign policy chief, the ‘rotating’ president? And who speaks on what? And what is the telephone number for foreign policy matters?

Instead of resolving this conflict before making the appointments, the European Council seems instead intent upon leaving the issue to be resolved afterwards.

To make matters worse, the Socialists have put their flag on the foreign policy chief, notwithstanding that there appears to be no qualified candidate, who must necessarily come from a big country and have international recognition.

If David Miliband continues to rule himself out, then appoint Chris Patten and give the European Council presidency to a Socialist woman, Tarja Halonen, the current Finnish president. Or appoint Peter Mandelson as foreign policy chief – an idea worth consideration”.

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