Blair set to become ‘more powerful than Obama’

The 'President of Europe', potentially

The 'President of Europe', potentially

On January 1, 2010, potentially the most powerful man in the world takes office. As the first President of the European Council, he have not only the support and authority of a group that produces 30% of the Gross World Product, but also the chance to dictate the role of office for all future inhabitants.
The man gunning for this role of extreme importance is no less than former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The role and scope of the job itself will be shaped by the personality of the occupant.

There are two broad schools that the style of Presidency could fall into. They could play a similar role to the current temporary president; a low-limelight administrative task, allowing much to be achieved outside of the media glare. On the other hand, they could be a high-profile, statesman-like figure to represent the EU across the world. It is not difficult to guess which of these two Blair would embody. He has already said that he would not be interested in the job if it involved merely chairing meetings, but wants serious power to intervene over trade and defence policy. Ultimately, it is his role as an extrovert and statesman, rather than his European credentials, that are most likely to get him elected. It is in the EU’s best interests to have a President who will carry high levels of political currency with them when dealing with overseas governments and negotiating treaties and settlements.

For an organisation looking at an increasingly powerful Asia and growing international respect for NATO and the UN diminishing, the EU needs to be strong to keep its desired place at the top of the world stage. Blair not only has the record of successful peace talks in Northern Ireland under his belt, but a further five years as Middle-East envoy. Indeed, one of the reasons that the Americans partnered with the British over Iraq was the strong Middle-Eastern contact book that Blair could wield. Such a contact book will serve him well when acting on behalf of Europe as its self-appointed spokesman and representative abroad. His relationship with America should, conversely, work in his favour as well. Many people in Britain don’t realise is that, in the States, Blair was never seen as Bush’s poodle. He was well respected and taken seriously. True, he alienated much of Europe by allying with Bush. The links that he still maintains with the US will actually leave him well-equipped for a continuing relationship, unmarred by the British connection and Gordon Brown’s recent transatlantic humiliations over Afghanistan and Lockerbie.

Such a role would see Blair placed in previously totally inaccessible circles, such as expanding the G2, currently consisting of America and China, to include the EU.
Add to this the fact that he would be well placed for talks and negotiations with Russia’s premier Vladimir Putin. The resulting requirements for this job therefore need the international gravitas that Blair can muster, like few else. In this important first term of office, anyone with insufficient international standing will lead to the instant ridicule of the EU Presidency, and general weakening of the global influence of the body. One restriction on the position is that candidates must be the head or former head of government of an EU state. This cuts Blair’s list of opponents down to few who could seriously compete. Whether or not you agree with the proposals, the fact remains that the EU will have a President at the start of next year, and that the President is likely to be Tony Blair. Love him or hate him, this can surely only be good for the position of Britain’s within Europe as a whole.

7 comments

  1. 13 Oct ’09 at 5:54 pm

    Erika Salzeck

    Europe does not want Blair- “Tony Blair’s actions while in office should be under severe scrutiny as part of a criminal investigation, and yet whitewashes and silence prevail. He is apparently beyond the law, making decisions which benefit himself at the cost of thousands of lives. The idea that he should be permitted to be president of the EU is abhorrent, and his nomination should be rejected.” Signatory to the Stop Blair Petition now at over 37,000 signatures.http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stopblair/signatures.html
    How we can even contemplate putting at the head of Europe a man whose innappropriate & disproportionate response to 9/11 unleashed a sequence of disaster & death, beggars belief. Blair chose to do this with Bush in defiance of the UN and against the wishes of many major European nations. Blair is becoming a cult – hail Saint Tony of the Gravy Train ! Where do the people of Europe get to state their views on his suitability? Over 370 British troops killed since 2001 & the toll rises steadily. Innumerable injured physically and mentally all because the monstrous egos of Bush, Blair & their hangers on saw history calling. Blair and his wife will go down in the history books as dangerous, grasping buffoons along with Mr & Mrs Marcos.
    Prevent this travesty by signing the Stop Blair Petition online.

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  2. You’ve seen in the Salzeck comment a fine, if desperate example of how goes the oft-regurgitated “argument” against Tony Blair.

    Europe DOES want Blair, imho. Unlike Salzeck (presumably) I must admit I haven’t asked them all. So I could be wrong. More of an admission than she’d ever lower herself to.

    Now for a few of the reasons FOR the EU President being Mr Blair, and this from a Brit.

    1. Tony Blair is a well-respected international politician, a superstar in politics. Apart from the American president who is in the limelight because of what he promises rather than for what he has done, Blair has an unmatchable “recognition” factor AND a history of understanding complex relationships. He is the diplomat’s politician too.

    2. Blair has a wide understanding of every continent’s worries and issues. He has started several high-powered projects since leaving office just over two years ago, including a climate group and a faiths organisation.

    3. Europe MUST raise its profile in the western world. Americans cannot and will no longer be expected to carry the can for all major worldwide concerns. The last time they did that on an important issue, international terror, many turned on them. Americans need a strong EU and the EU needs to support America. They should not be, or be seen to be in conflict.

    4. Blair’s history in settling the Northern Ireland conflict (yes, it was Blair who signed it off, not John Major) makes him uniquely qualified to help negotiate peace in the Middle East, if given sufficient authority.

    I could go on, but minds are made up already, especially by his opponents.

    The opponents of Blair have an axe to grind, usually over Iraq. The Iraq Inquiry will NEVER satisfy them unless it provides them with enough evidence to get Blair into a court in The Hague.

    It won’t.

    In the meantime these people are dangerous, imho. They have NO genuine interest in the law or the democratic setup of Britain or of international standards and expectations from democracy and from the UN. This is clear from their desire to equate Mr Blair with Milosevic, Mugabe, even Hitler.They realise how completely barking mad this makes them sound and so they fall back on the “filling his own pockets” argument. That is designed to touch a raw nerve in the poor “rest of us”.

    Again, it won’t work.

    Whether or not the President of the EU Council will REALLY have more powers than Mr Obama I am not so sure. He will represent 27 EU leaders/countries, not LEAD them.

    The last hope of the anti-Blair people lies in the present Iraq Inquiry.

    If you think Tony Blair deserves a fair hearing at this Inquiry, please sign this petition:

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ban-blair-baiting.html

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  3. I love the smell of freshly mowed AstroTurf in the morning.

    To that end, let’s deconstruct BlairSupporter’s canned talking points one by one.

    “1. Tony Blair is a well-respected international politician,”

    Except in Germany, BeNeLux, Greece, Sweden, and three or four other EU countries. And that’s only if you count the heads of state. If you count popular opinion, as expressed in numerous opinion polls, you can add France and Spain to the list as well.

    Not to mention Russia, China and India. The latter two will undoubtedly look with particular goodwill upon a politician who expressed his admiration for the British East India Company and the Opium Wars…

    “Blair has an unmatchable “recognition” factor”

    Mostly gained by demanding a British opt-out from human rights, expressing his pride in the British Empire, selling peerages to the highest bidder, driving one of his critics to suicide and sitting on his hands while the North Sea oil and gas peaked (and then blaming France and Russia for his own administration’s stupidity and lack of foresight). Oh, and launching three or four different patently illegal wars.

    But I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity…

    “AND [sic] a history of understanding complex relationships.”

    Such as ethnic tensions in post-invasion Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Central Asia. Oh, and his handling of Russia has been absolutely excellent too.

    Assuming, of course, that by “absolutely excellent” you mean “needlessly and uselessly antagonising Europe’s most important trading partner in strategic raw materials.”

    “2. Blair has a wide understanding of every continent’s worries and issues.”

    He can even tell you where Gori is on a map. Can’t tell you a straight story on how many times the Russians supposedly invaded it, though… (Hint: They never actually did.)

    And it’s not like his “infirm touch” approach to banking regulation and do-nothing policy on strategic infrastructure turned the UK into a third-world country. Nope, nothing to see there.

    “He has started several high-powered projects since leaving office just over two years ago, including a climate group”

    And of course he’s been impeccably consistent in his support for climate change – to the point where Britain by the end of his tenure had the lowest wind energy penetration of any country bordering the North Sea… despite having the greatest per capita wind resource of any European country.

    Maybe someone should send him a memo that “action on climate change” is usually taken to mean “action that aims to prevent climate change.”

    “3. Europe MUST raise its profile in the western world.”

    And if you had bothered to read the actual treaties, you would have known that this is the High Representative’s job, not the Council chairman’s job.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering why the EU foreign minister is called something as obscure as “High Representative” – well, that was at the insistence of a British PM called Tony Blair, who wanted to neuter Bruxelles’ ability to raise Europe’s profile in the world.

    “Americans cannot and will no longer be expected to carry the can for all major worldwide concerns. The last time they did that on an important issue, international terror, many turned on them.”

    I’ll have Revisionist History for 1000, Alex.

    Support for the American Global War on Terror was unanimous. Until they started abducting people, insulting their allies, torturing people, running death squads, shooting at European journalists and using terrorism as an excuse for the same old Cold War encirclement rubbish in Central Asia. Then support kinda cooled.

    Took three or four years, though, which shows an impressive amount of patience, considering the bald-faced insanity emanating from Washington in the early noughties.

    Oh, and since when did “international terror” become an important issue? More people are killed every month by car drivers than are killed every full decade by terrorists. Simply moving all morning commutes between major cities and their suburbs off the road and onto the railway would save more lives than any conceivable terror law. But I guess it wouldn’t play as well with the Daily Mail and their BNP segment…

    “Americans need a strong EU and the EU needs to support America.”

    Because obviously European and American interests are always coterminous. Europe couldn’t possibly have different security and commercial interests in Central Asia, the Mediterranean and the Near East than America.

    “4. Blair’s history in settling the Northern Ireland conflict (yes, it was Blair who signed it off, not John Major) makes him uniquely qualified to help negotiate peace in the Middle East, if given sufficient authority.”

    Which is obviously the reason that he has accomplished precisely nothing in the two years that he’s spent there since handing over a failed state to Gordon Brown…

    – Jake

    Cross-posted with minor revisions to European Tribune.

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  4. I think there’s two seperate points this article raises:

    1. Blair is *likely* to be the next Council President

    I disagree. Agree with Iraq or not (I don’t), it split the EU down the middle and no way will several member states vote for him. In fact, there’s evidence that Blair’s strongest EU advocate – Nicolas Sarkozy – is merely running Blair as a stalking horse with no actual chance of success (for Iraq and other reasons, which I’ll get to)(tiny.cc/sarkozy612). Even if he does have Sarkozy’s support, there’s a gentleman’s agreement that Germany, France and the UK will not back a candidate the other vetos, and Merkel is quite clearly NOT a Blair fan (tiny.cc/agreement). At the end of the day, the Socialists don’t like Blair (hand on heart, can’t say I blame them)(tiny.cc/opposition), and there’s a sizeable Stop Blair campaign as referenced above. It won’t happen.

    2. Blair *should* be the next Council President

    Which is, of course, an entirely different question. To be honest, I don’t think he should. He’s a great orator, and has good contacts. But I want someone wholly committed to an integrated Europe, and Blair is someone who refused to consider Eurozone or Schengen membership. I want a true social democrat, and in European terms, Blair’s support of retaining an opt-out for the Social Chapter and Charter of Rights means that he doesn’t really fit that bill. And yes, Blair has good contacts, but like it or not Peter, Blair IS seen as a poodle HERE, and I think the last thing the EU needs is to become subservient to the EU, which I think could happen with Blair, frankly.

    So who should we have? Well, ideally you want a strong natural leader, with a solid progressive policy record, who led a country that cannot be accused of already dominating the EU (ie. a small country), and has good links with (but is willing to challenge) the US.

    Good job we have such a candidate! May I take the opportunity to shamelessly plug Mary Robinson. Despite being of Ireland’s third party, Robinson was able to to work successfully with other party leaders and was very very popular during her term (at one point having an approval rating of 93%! tiny.cc/popularity869). She has a fantastic policy record (women’s rights, LGBT rights, fairer trade deals, 3rd world access to healthcare, etc, etc, etc). And she has great international credentials, serving as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chair of the IIED, and member of the US-Europe-Japan Trilateral Commission, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the current Obama administration. Howzat!

    If you want to support Mary Robinson, there’s a link here: http://tiny.cc/support792

    PS. Usual disclaimer about being personal views, not those of Labour Club, YUSU, moomins, yada yada

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  5. Thanks for all your comments so far. There has been lots written about this issue, but one very interesting piece is by Irwin Stelzer in yesterday’s Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/14/stop-hating-tony-blair

    Well worth a read.

    I’d also like to respond to some of your comments, and will draft a response once I have finished my essay.

    Thanks again, and please keep commenting.

    Best,

    Peter

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  6. Just read the article you posted Peter. I think it talks a lot of rubbish generally, but on the specific point about Blair’s candidacy for President of the European Council, it doesn’t seem to give any real reasons *at all* as to why he should get it, only that 1) the writer likes him and 2) he’s famous. Also, it does not address the point that I made that your article confuses the wuestions of whether Blair *should* be Prez and *will* be Prez: the former is a matter of opinion, but as I said before, the evidence is against it actually happening.

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  7. “..for talks and negotiations with Russia’s premier Vladimir Putin.”

    Really?!

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