Wednesday February 6 2008
Scroll down to read UK media comment and report on Blair's latest attempt to quench his greed for power
As rumours circulated concerning Tony Blair's interest in the post of President of the European Council (newly created by the Treaty of Lisbon), a number of posters here at European Tribune expressed alarm. It was quickly clear that, on this collaborative site which includes members from all over Europe, opposition to Blair's candidature was unanimous, and the idea of a petition was mooted.
Over the last few days, on the basis of Melanchthon's initial draft, the text of the petition was discussed and translated into, in all, nine languages (with more to follow), and a website set up to host them: fast work, and a genuinely European initiative!
Sign the Petition HERE
Et ici pour la petition en francais HERE
Petition against the nomination of Tony Blair as "President of the European Union"
We, European citizens of all origins and of all political persuasions, wish to express our total opposition to the nomination of Tony Blair to the Presidency of the European Council.
The Treaty of Lisbon provides for the new post of President of the European Council, to be elected by the Council for a mandate, renewable once only, of two and a half years. Under the terms of the Treaty: "The President of the European Council shall chair it and drive forward its work" and "shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council". Further, "The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy"¹.
The future President of the European Council will therefore have a key role in determining the policies of the European Union and its relations with the rest of the world. This first Council Presidency will also have a major symbolic weight for both citizens of the European Union and for the image of the Union in the rest of the world. In this perspective, we believe it is essential that the first president embodies the spirit and values of the European project.
For some time now, increasingly insistent news reports have made evident a wish, in some quarters, to see Tony Blair appointed the first President of the European Council. This appointment, were it to take place, would be in total contradiction with the values professed by the European project.
In violation of international law, Tony Blair committed his country to a war in Iraq that a large majority of European citizens opposed. This war has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims and displaced millions of refugees. It has been a major factor in today's profound destabilisation of the Middle East, and has weakened world security. In order to lead his country into war, Mr Blair made systematic use of fabricated evidence and the manipulation of information. His role in the Iraq war would weigh heavily on the image of the Union in the world, should he in fact be named its president.
The steps taken by Tony Blair's government, and his complicity with the Bush administration in the illegal programme of "extraordinary renditions", have led to an unprecedented decline in civil liberties. This is in contradiction with the terms of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is an integral part of the treaty.
The European Charter of Fundamental Rights formalises the founding values of the European project and is one of the pillars of the new treaty. Tony Blair fought its inclusion in the Treaty of Lisbon, and eventually managed to secure an exemption for the UK.
Rather than move European integration forward, the former British Prime Minister set a series of so-called red lines during the Lisbon negotiations², with the intent of blocking any progress in social issues and tax harmonisation, as well as common defence and foreign policy.
Furthermore, it seems unthinkable that the first President of the European Council should be the former head of a government that kept its country out of two key elements of the construction of Europe: the Schengen area of free movement of people and the Euro zone.
At a time when one of the priorities of the European institutions is to reconnect with its citizens, we believe it is essential that the President of the European Council should be a person with whom a majority of citizens can identify, rather than one rejected by a majority³. Therefore, we declare our total opposition to this nomination.
Treaty of Lisbon, Article 1, point 16, inserting Article 9 B into the Treaty on European Union, points 5 and 6 (2007/C 306/17, 18)
Blair sets out EU treaty demands, BBC, June 2007
Table 6 in FT/Harris poll, June 2007
London ~~ Saturday February 9 2008
Non to Blair!
Tony Blair reduced Britain to absolute diplomatic helotry to the Bush administration, he must not be allowed to hobble Europe as its president
By Ian Williams
Nicolas Sarkozy's attempts to push Tony Blair as president of the new European Union is a stark contrast to previous French treatment of British prime ministers - and not much to the credit of either Blair or Sarkozy.
Two score years ago and five, Charles de Gaulle gave the doigt to Britain's prime minister Harold McMillan and vetoed his application to join the European community. Four years later, the general did it again for Harold Wilson who had succeeded to No 10 Downing Street by then.
Apart from payback time for all the humiliations that he saw heaped on France and himself by Britain - including the British failure to be occupied by the Nazis - De Gaulle's argument was that Britain would be a Trojan horse for American influence in Europe. To some extent he was right, even if his real motive was to keep out a rival for influence in Charlemagne's former realms. But it has taken Tony Blair to make him absolutely right about the Trojan horse.
On one level, it is, like Blair's Middle East position, yet another non-job designed to give a redundant statesman a sense of self-importance. But from another point of view, it is an insult to Europe. Symbolically, Blair for European president would be like running the Reverend Ian Paisley for Pope. Elected into office as a Europhile, Blair soon followed the Murdoch line of reflexive contempt for Brussels, while acting as Washington's agent in the continent, fulfilling all of De Gaulle's worst fears.
While Europe is clearly a success story in economic terms, despite the anally retentive influence of German central bankers, it punches way below its weight in global politics, and one reason for that has been Blair's determination to toe whatever line came from Washington. With the League of Nations style of consensus decision-making in Europe, foreign policy decisions are reduced to the lowest common denominator, which for much of the last decade has been Blair, with occasional help from Berlusconi and the Poles.
It is also interesting to contrast Blair's absolute subservience to Washington with his Labour predecessor's role. Wilson managed to keep Britain out of the Vietnam despite Lyndon Baines Johnson's enormous pressure and his speech, in response to de Gaulle's veto, is worth looking at to see an alternative to both pandering and crude anti-Americanism. He said:
"The concept of a powerful Atlantic partnership can be realised only when Europe is able to put forth her full economic strength so that we can, in industrial affairs, speak from strength to our Atlantic partners."
While pledging Britain's loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance, he explained:
"Loyalty never means subservience. Still less must it mean an industrial helotry under which we in Europe produce only the conventional apparatus of a modern economy, while becoming increasingly dependent on American business for the sophisticated apparatus which will call the industrial tune in the 70s and 80s."
Ironically, as American industrial hegemony dissolved, and Europe's collective financial strength began to outstrip America's, Blair reduced Britain to absolute diplomatic helotry to the worst and most reactionary White House ever while the dollar declined by levels far worse than the beleaguered pound sterling ever did.
For him to hobble Europe as its president just as it is becoming economically capable of holding its own against the US would have truth emulating the fiction of Robert Harris, whose novel Ghost postulates an uncannily Blair-like British prime minister who had been recruited by the CIA to ensure precisely the kind of helotry we have seen. In retrospect, Harris's scenario looks a lot less paranoid than all those spook inspired stories about Wilson being a KGB plant. The EU should say "non" to Sarkozy's choice.
London ~~ Friday February 8 2008
As PM, Blair opposed an all-powerful EU. Now he's changed his mind - but only if he can run it
With a procession of MPs coming under fire this week for their misuse of allowances, it seems that we have more reason than ever to feel cynical about the conduct of politicians. Cash for honours, dodgy donations, fiddled expenses and all the other recent allegations of financial sleaze have brought the profession of politics into disrepute.
Certainly it is true that public service does not always seem to be the politician's first priority. Yet, it is my opinion that one can worry too much about this sort of thing. There will always be politicians who will try to misuse the system for their own benefit, and others, such as Tony Blair, who will exploit their position quite legally (if unattractively) for financial gain. But while abuses must be stopped and transparency imposed, it remains true that British politics are relatively incorrupt and that most politicians are trying to be good.
Even politicians who have a weakness for money and the good life may be high-minded in their political purposes, so the exposure of the odd bad apple doesn't induce much cynicism in me. But the front page of last Saturday's Guardian suddenly did.
Its main story, under the headline "I'll be president of Europe if you give me the power - Blair", was about his agonising over whether to go for the new job as full-time president of the European Union. Written by the Guardian's political editor, Patrick Wintour, it said that Blair "is increasingly willing to put himself forward for the job if it comes with real powers to intervene in defence and trade affairs".
This is the same man who claimed, as prime minister, to be opposed to European federalism and tenacious in defence of Britain's national sovereignty. But now that the job of European president may be within his grasp, his desire is for it to be as powerful as possible, whatever the consequences for Britain; and he doesn't seem to mind that the power he seeks could even stick in the gullet of "pro-Europeans".
By the same token, he is reportedly unhappy with his present job as Middle East envoy for America, Russia, Europe and the United Nations because "he is not going to be allowed to become the key player in furthering Israeli-Palestinian talks this year, and will be reduced to a role of supporting political development in Palestine and boosting its economy".
Who could hope for more than a chance to help put Palestine on its feet? But for Blair, nothing less than being a "key player" in world politics is good enough. Now that does make me feel cynical.
· This week Alexander spent most of his time studying the impenetrable instructions for his new Toyota Prius hybrid car: "Bought to defeat Ken Livingstone's congestion charge." He was also gripped by We Will Not Fight by Will Ellsworth-Jones: "A tragic story of how cruelly conscientious objectors were treated in the first world war."
London ~~ Saturday February 2, 2008
I'll be president of Europe if you give me the power - Blair
Former PM consults old Downing Street allies on campaign for new EU role
Patrick Wintour, political editor
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and former British prime minister Tony Blair. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Tony Blair has been holding discussions with some of his oldest allies on how he could mount a campaign later this year to become full-time president of the EU council, the prestigious new job characterised as "president of Europe". Blair, currently the Middle East envoy for the US, Russia, EU and the UN, has told friends he has made no final decision, but is increasingly willing to put himself forward for the job if it comes with real powers to intervene in defence and trade affairs.
Blair, who is being actively promoted by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, recognises he would need to abandon his well-paid, private sector jobs if he won. His wife Cherie - often portrayed as seeking ever more wealth and well-paid consultancies for her husband - is understood to be supportive of him accepting the job.
Some Blair allies also say that he now recognises that as envoy in the Middle East he is not going to be allowed to become the key player in furthering Israeli-Palestinian talks this year, and will be reduced to a role of supporting political development in Palestine and boosting its economy.
The president of the European council of ministers is a post created under the Lisbon treaty. The president will be the permanent chair of the council of ministers, Europe's chief decision-making body.
Jonathan Powell, Blair's Downing Street chief of staff, is among the former lieutenants he has met to discuss a bid for the European role.
Some senior figures believe he could yet be a loser in the carve-up of four big European jobs due to be distributed at the end of the French presidency in the second half of this year. Some claim that if the commission president, José Manuel Barroso, wanted to remain in post for a second term, it would be difficult for Blair, a political ally and previous advocate for Barroso, to hold the parallel, prestigious European council job.
Decisions also have to be made on the appointment of a new, "high representative" on foreign policy, and the post of president of the European parliament. Smaller EU countries are sensitive about key jobs being taken by leading figures from larger countries, especially from one that is not part of the eurozone or the Schengen free-movement area, and that actively supports Turkish membership, as Britain has. Some French socialists have already come out against Blair, citing his role in the war in Iraq. Former French president Valéry Giscard D'Estaing has also expressed his opposition.
It is thought that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is not persuaded of the advantages of a Blair presidency. The Christian Democrats have recently been politically weakened in state elections, and fear a Blair presidency might strengthen the German Social Democrats. Neither the Germans nor the French would push Blair if they believed his appointment was going to be opposed by Gordon Brown.
Blair himself is still doubtful that the role of council president will become a powerful job, saying he senses that even pro-Europeans might recoil from ceding power from the nation state.
With most countries currently focused on ratifying the Lisbon treaty through their national parliaments, decisions on the powers of the full-time president are unlikely to be made until the second half of the year.
Apart from Blair, two other candidates most often mentioned are the former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, promoted by Germany, and the current Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker.