>European Appointments

>1. How do we know “the world had responded negatively to appt. of Rompuy and Ashton”? Rob, what did you mean by the statement in your email that “The US has called {them} “Garden gnomes”?

Someone in the US called them that. I doubt if they had any connection with the US govt. More likely Fox News commentators ; the same people who told repeated lies sbout the NHS. They were appointed by the heads of all the member countries.

2. Either way, the right-wing who deny climate change,don’t want international agreements on the climate,or on the economy, or on Bankers’ Bonuses, or crime or immigration, were always going to “slag off” the people appointed. If a “big hitter” had been appointed, this would have been described as politician with massive ego ( eg Blair or Mandelson) taking decisions away from national governments.

Now they have appointed people who will be careful to represent a consensus but will be effective in co-ordination.This is why they were chosen by the elected heads of state from all member countries. They are unknown,simply because the TV and Press refuse to report most of what goes on in Europe.When they do report , it is distorted.

3.There are 2 main reasons why British media keep silent on Europe:-
1aEurope is VERY hostile to allowing one business ( eg Murdoch) to own several media channels. Owners of “Telegraph”, “Mail”, Murdoch etc want freedom to buy and media outlets as they like. And thereby control as much of what we read/watch as they like. Sadly Berlusconi got around this from v early on, but repeats will not be allowed.
1bThe Tories have rendered themselves politically impotent in making the appointments, or in making other Euro-parliament decisions, by deciding to leave the majority centre-right group in the Euro-parliament.

20 comments

  • >A fair point on my attributing the 'Garden Gnomes' comment to the US in general (in the Member’s email). It is a nickname being picked up by people across the US and in Europe; both by Bloggers, the Media, and also some politicians. I tried to track down who said it first and it seems that it actually came from Whitehall. A “cynical voice from Whitehall” was all I got. If anyone does know who said it first then please do let me know. I apologize for the generalisation. However I do not apologize for my criticisms of Rompuy and Ashton’s appointments to President of the European Council and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy respectively. Yes they were chosen by the heads of member countries but they were no one's first choice. They were chosen to be chairs of meetings and that is all they will be. This is why I am disappointed. They probably will do well in reaching compromises and finding out what everyone thinks. But they have little vision or leadership skills; next to no one in Europe or the world knows who they are; their appointments risk the EU not being taken seriously as a global player; and they both have extremely little experience to be given these positions. This by the way is the main reason they are not known throughout Europe. What foreign policy experience does Ashton have? When was the last time she was elected? Why should the media have reported on her before now when she was only a contender for the position very late on in the race? Good chairpersons? Yes very likely. But good leaders? Unfortunately not likely. For do you honestly think that Rompuy is Kissinger's person to call in Europe?Also, it is easy to find out how negatively the world has responded to their appointments. Just type their names into an internet search engine. You certainly won’t find much positive or hopeful news. Some people ignore the appointment as if nothing’s changed, and others attack the appointments because practically nothing has changed. As for the second point I hardly think it fair to call me a right winger trying to "slag off" whoever got appointed. Firstly, even though it might feel like it, the right wing is not one collective body intent on attacking Labour’s every move. Secondly, I am a Labour member as you know, and to dismiss my valid criticisms as merely part of a political game is a very similar tactic to that that has been turning people off politics for the last twenty years. Of course appointees with bigger reputations would have been criticised too. There are probably no decisions that can make all people happy. But in my view the alternative would have been better, giving greater vision, experience, leadership, and most importantly credibility on the international stage. Better known figures are more hated but at least they are known enough to be hated; and they are also more loved. At present we now have the privilege of living in a union where most people don’t even know the name of their President. The third point contains some truth. We all know that the media is biased; and the more often you read the newspaper the more you realise this. But to say that there is a media boycott on Europe because of right wing sentiments and a desire for more freedom in the markets is difficult to argue. Media companies do not have the sole aim of informing people. They aim to make a profit! If people were interested enough in Europe to buy information, then more of the media would be selling this information.

  • >I have to agree with Bob's point on the appointment of Ashton and Rompuy. I do not know either of these guys (i know very little about who's who in politics), but what i do like is that they are consensus politicians (supposedly).I think the benefit of having such people is highlighted by Rob's attempted criticism that 'Kissinger does not know who to call in Europe'.Firstly, Europe is not supposed to be a lap dog of the U.S. It is not the point of the european union to make life easier for America.Second, without one 'leader' (i'm seeing there being some overlap with autocrat in that title lately), when the U.S. wants something done (like an invasion) that is against UN charter etc,. they will not be able to invite one 'leader' over and convince him to lead his country into a false war.Instead i can see that kind of thing being very difficult and frustrating for america to achieve. Anything they want will have to go through a process of debate and reach a 'consensus' agreement before a course of action is taken.This scenario must annoy the U.S. already, i can't wait to see it in action.

  • >Wow, lost for words. What?Since when does a stronger EU mean that we become a lap dog of the US? In fact quite the opposite. At the moment we are more the US's lap dog than we would be under a leader with a strong reputation. The US have the strongest voice in the world and we feel that we have to stand under their protective 'umbrella' as 'the West'. Why? Because when we bicker among ourselves, delay and stand disunited we present a weak stance in the world. Separately, we have such a small proportion of the US's wealth or power that we look small in comparison. But as the EU we are the largest economic power in the world and we should be prepared to utilise this strength. And as for leader meaning autocrat, well I think you need a new dictionary. The amount of power held by a leader is decided by the political system. We now have a representative anyway. We may as well make sure that he/she can represent us well! Rompuy is unknown, and quite frankly looks weak on the international stage. A stronger, more well-known leader is far less likely to bend to the will of the US than a compromiser like Rompuy or Ashton. And while this may not be either of their intentions the simple fact is that their combined lack of experience places them in a very weak position.Basically, the Lisbon Treaty has passed already. We are not arguing about how much power should be vested in the new positions, merely who will fill them. The prospect that you mention, of a European 'autocrat' could not realistically happen in the next few hundred years, so electing leaders with more of a democratic mandate, and more vision and strength would only help. At the end of the day the Lisbon Treaty does not allow the President or High Representative to go 'gung ho' making all the decisions on behalf of the member states. What it does allow is for a leader who can say "this is the Europe I see in ten years time, who will help me realise this dream?" It allows for a leader who can step into a room with Obama and Jintao and negotiate on equal grounds. Wouldn't you like to see Europe better represented?

  • >"Since when does a stronger EU mean that we become a lap dog of the US?"You've assumed that i've accepted your position of having one strong leader resulting in a stronger EU, and then you go on to make your case.But the point in debate is whether a strong leader is neccessary and better for the EU's goals.Then you say that we present a weak stance in the world due to our divisiveness.how does a leader who in your own words is a 'consensus leader' manage to not include everybodies opinions and end up with a disunified position.Surely consensus means everybody has come to an agreement right?I should have amended my original statement to say 'strong leader meaning autocrat'.with the combined abilities of the member nations i think what we need is a leader who can bring out the best for all. not a 'strong leader' who can override the opinions of others in order to achieve what he sees as best from his point of view.what do you see as the difference in your view between 'leader' and 'strong leader'?Who cares if Rompuy is unknown on the world stage. He represents the EU and everyone well knows them. And do i have to remind you that Obama was an unheard of one term senator from illinois, unknown on the world stage when he ran for office.the world didn't disrepect him for it. nor have they found obamas lack of experience anything to profit from, because they know he has able people behind him.You finally mention a lisbon treaty that benefits 'the elction of leaders with a more democratic mandate'. Isn't this what a consensus leader is?I think Europe is very well respresented and gets a perfect share of the limelight. I would not like us to be 'representing' (in the rap lingo manner) like the US because that amount of unilateralism only ever seems to get them (the US) into fucked up situations.and sometimes they drag 'strong leaders' like tony blair along with them.

  • >Ok, I understand where you're coming from a little better now. Is a stronger leader necessary for a stronger EU? On your side, there is the possibility that more compromise will prevent political bickering and ensure an EU that is acceptable to all. This is what the EU state leaders have decided and I can respect this opinion. However I do not agree. For as I said before; the Lisbon Treaty does not create a United States of Europe. No leader appointed under that treaty could ever act as an autocrat. Therefore compromise would be needed even by a stronger leader. But, this stronger leader would be more widely known by the people and be able to guide progress. He would lead rather than following. In essence we are not talking about a compromising leader versus an autocrat. This is simply not possible in the EU. What we are talking about is a well known and respected figure who can try and guide other leaders in what is given emphasis, and who can truly represent the EU's decisions on the world arena.Secondly, yes a consensus leader could help to foster consensus. But my point is that on foreign affairs opinions range to too great a degree for someone like Rompuy to gather a compromise. If elected under the Lisbon Treaty, neither Rompuy, Zapatero, or even Blair would have been able to say "I disagree with you and am going to do my own thing." What they would have been able to say is "You're being unreasonable. Representatives from every other country agree to compromise on this point and it is in the interests of the EU as a whole that you make some compromises too." Blair or Zapatero would have had weight enough, and political skill enough to try and force some sort of compromise on foreign policy. This would have had the effect that the US and particularly China would have to start paying attention to the EU as a whole. For at the minute the EU is dismissed as weak and unable to act. It is not considered worthwhile to send diplomats to the EU rather than or even as well as to every member state. So where Rompuy compromises and says "well ok maybe we'll agree next time”, Blair or Zapatero would have said "No, we need a compromise now!" That is the difference between a strong, well-known EU President and a weak, unknown one.As for the relevance of how well-known Rompuy is it is huge. Comparing him to Obama is ludicrous. Obama is the President of the most powerful nation on Earth and in my opinion the most skilled orator and politician. Rompuy is President of a fragile union comprised of many different countries, who have allowed one figure to act in a certain way. Hence he has less authority to act, and far less skills as a politician. In fact it would not be too far gone to compare him to Britain's Brown: someone who began in economics, has fairly little personality, and is more of an analyst/manager than a leader. As for able people behind him, do you honestly think Ashton is that able? She has practically no foreign policy experience, and will not balance his personality one bit. They have the same strengths and weaknesses.Continued on next comment..

  • >As for whether or not Rompuy and Ashton have a mandate, well it is a matter of opinion. As a compromise decision between the heads of state yes they have received some mandate. But this mandate is very indirect, and I can be at least 95% sure that were the people able to give their direct mandate they would not have given it to them.Your last point seems to stand at odds with the rest of your argument. In the rest you say that if we look inwards rather than out to foreign policy issues, then we can become stronger. But at the end you seem to say that a stronger EU would not be a good thing for all the mess it has gotten the US into. Well if you have such a strong opinion on what the US is doing wrong as the sole powerful actor (and no, China is nowhere near as powerful yet) then surely you agree that the EU should be exercising their powers more to ensure that the 'right' things are done in the world. For example Rompuy will not try and encourage other EU leaders to confirm their aim to cut emissions by 30%. A strong leader would. A strong leader would say this is something that will benefit the EU and the world in the future. We should therefore lead the world on this point.

  • >Democracy works from the ground up (in utopian theory). Therefore there should be no need for a strong leader to 'guide other leaders in what is given emphasis'.The things that need to be given emphasis are those for which the constituent MPs push for most strongly. And the things they push for most strongly are the things that concern their voters the most.i do not believe in the idea of some supposedly omnipotent, superior, uber leader who is smarter than they other leaders and is able to influence them towards what he thinks is most important.to paraphrase mr. gump, 'important is as important does'.next, i was defintely not referring to ashton as being the able people behind him. i was referring to rompuy acting as the representative of eu citizens who are represented by Sarkozy, Merkel, and each of their respective cabinets, etc.I do not think that an EU of any strenght would have been able to stop the US from their unilateral action on Iraq. Only a nuclear powered Iraq or a extremely strong and organised arab coalition would have been able to stop that.The US will do whatever it wants in the face of opposition, even if that opposition comes in the form of the combined might of China, Russia, and the EU.Finally it is ludricous to compare rompuy to obama, but thats ok because i compared rompuy to 'obama the presidential candidate of 2008'.and that obama was unheard of and had no experience.

  • >In some places and some things democracy does work from the ground up. But whatever the system of government leaders will always be needed and well you know it. To have a union of millions of people without leadership is anarchy.Your example of an MP is a good example of a LEADER. You seem to be quite suspious about leaders. Becoming one does not make a person inherently bad you know. You are still confusing an autocrat and a democratic leader. Under the first system the autocrat can act more or less as he/she wishes (though there are always restraints, even in autocracy). Yet in a western style liberal democracy it is a leader's job to serve the people. He/she leads them in the right direction in order to fulfil their own goals/aims. You say that a leader should not guide people in what is given emphasis; then should the government give equal emphasis to the desires of the 700 million people in the EU? No of course not. It is politicians who prioritise, saying these aims will make people more happy, these are more achievable, these affect the most people etc. This is where a leader comes in, helping to guide people. But leaders should not only act in order to achieve the people's aims either. In some cases they do need to guide the people in a new direction (only according to the values they were voted in to uphold mind). Take Switzerland for example. The Swiss people voted in a referendum to ban the building of minarets, in part because they were angry about recent relations with Libya. The European Court of Human Rights is saying this is illegal,and the Swiss government is refusing to defend the decision because it is contradictory with the values they were elected to uphold. Should they defend the decision because it's what the people want? No! They should be using their unique view of the big picture to do what they were voted in to do, lead the Swiss people!Next your statement that "the US will do whatever it wants in the face of opposition" is ludicrous. You state yourself that some things could have stopped their invasion of Iraq. Why do you assume nothing or no one outside of the Middle East could have done the same? What is your evidence to suggest that no one around the world has any influence on US decision making other than those directly concerned?And finally, as I said before it is ludicrous to compare Rompuy to Obama for two reasons. The first was his status. But the second was his skills. Rompuy has nothing like the level of presence that Obama carries.

  • >The lesser point first. It's January 16 2007 and Obama announces his candidacy. Tell me what you think of him? Remember it's not 2009 yet. What do you think of him? A great orator with 'status and presence'?You keep confusing then with now.Next point is that we obviously have a different interpretation of leadership.To have a union of millions of people without leadership (but one vote per person), is NOT anarchy, it is democracy."should the government give equal emphasis to the desires of the 700 million people in the EU?" Only if those desires are split equally into, say, 100m each. But desires are never like that, and those which the people feel are most important will become evident to politicians with the result that these wishes are prioritised. There need be no singularly independant thinking done by the leader as to what he determines to be the most important. He only needs to display the skill of listening to come to the right answer.Any other action is elitism and an abusive of democracy.Regards you example of the swiss banning the minarets, here i will say i'm not sure as to how the relationship between national sovereignty and EU legislation works.But if France is allowed to ban the Niqab, why can't Switzerland ban the minaret?Secondly, how is the banning of a piece of architecture an impingement of human rights? This is stretching the purpose of the idea.Finally, I think minarets should be banned in switzerland if the swiss people desire them to be so. This is democracy.As joan of arc said, "if the people want cake, let them eat cake".

  • >No I do not confuse then with now. Are you seriously suggesting that someone like Rompuy is going to develop a similar level of presence and personality as Obama in the next couple of years?And second, we do not live in a complete democracy. That would not work in practice. Even the democracy of Ancient Greece was not complete. We live in representative democracies. They have leaders!Next, thanks for arguing for my point. Desires are not simply split into several groups, and the desires of the people take interpretation and thought as to what would best achieve those desires. The 700 million people do not all sit around one giant table and come to an agreement as to what should be done. This is what you are suggesting. Instead, the European Commission acts as the leader, heading the government and developing policy ideas based on its interpretation of the people's desires.And lastly, relating to your reference to the Minarets and your insistence on the rule of the majority, when the majority of Germans agreed to elect a Nazi government they knew were going to persecute the Jews did you think that was right?

  • >The German people knew Hitler would enact a holocaust?

  • >I said they knew he was going to persecute the Jews.

  • >You cannot blame the fascist decisions of the third reich on democracy run amok.

  • >That was not my point. My point first of all was that the appointment of Rompuy and Ashton was not very democratic or a good decision in my view. You disagreed saying that it was democratic, and then went on to argue how the more democracy we have the better the society is. I am simply making the point that democracy does not solve everything. We do not a balance, and we do need help and assistance from those who know what they're talking about. Hence why we have representative democracies and not direct democracies.

  • >Well we should have a direct democracy instead then.What are your views on Hamas then? They were fairly elected in a democracy but were ousted by the opposition and classed as a terrorist organisation by most countries.Should Hamas be allowed to rule and the UN reinstate their position, or is this a case of external democratic leadership where what is best for the people gets decided by political elites abroad?

  • >Do you even know what direct democracy is? It means all decisions made by all people. How do you think that would work? And do you honestly think it would be effective?As for Hamas I support the people's right to elect them but I disagree with their decision. If you talk with people who voted for Hamas you will find that almost no-one wanted to give them a great deal of political power in 2006. Indeed even the exit polls conducted shortly before the election found Fatah several percentage points ahead. So why did people vote for Hamas? They voted for Hamas for the same reason people are voting for extreme parties all over the world: as a protest vote. Fatah was seen as being corrupt, inefficient, and not making any progress in gaining Palestinian independence. Now I am not saying that Hamas is without support. But not many people seriously thought they were going to get into power, with the worst predictions being that they would form a coalition with the Fatah party .Hence I would tell someone who voted for Hamas in 2006 the same thing I would tell a BNP supporter today: voting for an extreme party is not an effective protest vote. It would be much better to try and get involved yourself, writing letters to politicians, campaigning against corruption and creating petitions for new laws. Now it is of course understandable that people do not have time to do such things. But a vote for an extremist tells leaders only one thing: that you want an extreme solution.And as for the last point I take a utilitarian view, that is that the decision should be taken based on what is the greatest good. Your rigid attachment to national democracy is based on the view that everyone gets what they choose, and it is made invalid by the fact that there are no completely isolated communities in the world, so national decisions affect the international arena. As I said before the decision of the majoity should not permitt persecution or neglect of the minority, and secondly, when that democratic body starts having an affect on others outside of that national area, particularly in a violent manner, then it becomes the concern of those outsiders. The UN is not a monarchical elite from the colonial era; it is a world body that was formed to help the entire world and continues today to act toward this goal. Yes there are many problems with it that mean some are represented unproportionately. But if leaders from around the world decide in a democratic manner, that one leader/leading group is detrimental to their own people, their region or even the world as a whole, then absolutely they have a right and an obligation to step in!

  • >Yes Robert, I do know what a direct democracy is. One example of a direct democracy is what they have in Switzerland.Perhaps you should point out to the 8 million Swiss, your indignation at its working improbabilty and effectiveness.I'm sure you will write the Swiss off as an oddity because it is a small nation, but please be informed that it has roughly twice the population of NZ, Scotland, and Ireland, and only half as much as Australia.Are you saying that what works for the Swiss couldn't work for these countries, let alone larger ones.With technology having made communication instantaneous (and two-way) there is no reason why we should not be able to adapt our systems to take into account more direct particpation by voters in their countries and communities.See this for starters,http://dotgov.com/2009/11/10-examples-how-local-governments-can-use-twitter/Next, is your position on Hamas.I had trouble even reading your argument as it completely disregarded the Palestinians right to self-determination, patronised them by saying that they did not know who they were voting for, and then arrogantly assumed that all the votes cast for Hamas were solely protest votes against Fatah.And finally you state a point which gets to the crux of the matter, which is -"I take a utilitarian view, that is that the decision should be taken based on what is the greatest good"And my question is, who makes this decision?I say it should be all the people, after discussion and consensus.You say it should be a liberal elite.Conveniently in this case you cite the UN as being the deciding body, yet in our other discussion on Blair, you again conveniently argued that the UN was not the authorative arbiter.

  • >No you do not know what a direct democracy is. Switzerland does not make all decisions by referendum. A direct democracy has never and most likely will never exist in a society of more than a thousand people. Switzerland is a confederation, with two legislative houses elected just as in any other representative democracy. It could be described as a deliberative or discursive democracy but not direct. These systems of government are a mixture of direct and representative democracies i.e. a representative democracy that cedes a large amount of decisions to the people.And as to my reply about Hamas you seem to have misunderstood. I quote my earlier statement "I support the people's right to elect them." Next, how exactly did I patronize the Palestinians? I certainly never said that they didn't know who they were voting for, although you are unwise to bring this point up as there are a great deal of Palestinians, as there are people in all countries, who are politically uneducated. I said, and I quote again "I am not saying Hamas is without support." I meant by this that of course there were people who wanted Hamas in power. But the fact is, and it is a fact backed up by polls and statistics, that the main reason the vote for Hamas was so large was due to disatisfaction with Fatah, not endorsement of Hamas's policy. I am praising the Palestinian people by telling you this. You are insulting them by inferring that a majority of Palestinians wanted violence (remember Hamas only dropped the call for Israel's destruction in January 2006).And as for the last point you seem to be continually ignoring my valid points about your incredibly biased opinions. Stop labelling anyone with political power as an undemocratic elite. Talk about facts!In the next paragraph you again refuse to talk about facts. I have never said that the UN was not an authoritative arbiter, and most likely never will. I repeatedly said that I personally believed Blair was wrong to go against the UN's verdict. My argument there was that there are two sides to any debate and that Blair believed he was and is acting for the greater good. The only point worthy of debate here is your question "who makes this decision?" You argue that all decisions should be made democratically at a national level and that no international body should ever be able to agree. This is a state of 'International Anarchy' and I disagree. I am somewhat more of an internationalist. I think that democratic international bodies should be able to intervene if there is a majority consensus that not intervening would lead to human rights injustices. Now the UN is nowehere near democratic enough (see my ideas for refom on the politics page), but nevertheless it does have authority, even if you claim I denied this.

  • >See below where Switzerland is listed as an example of a direct democracy -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy

  • >How many professors have you heard telling you not to use Wikipedia? It's a common misconception about Switzerland but it is wrong. I studied International Politics so I do know what I'm talking about.

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