Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Where Angels Fear to Tread: Choosing a President

The suggestion that Massimo d'Alema could be the social democratic choice for High Representative for Foreign Affairs in the European Union has been pushed more and more forcefully in the last few weeks. At first just a piece of chitchat in political and technical circles it is now being discussed in mainstream press articles with details of which social democrats are supporting the candidacy and why it is appropriate - because the European centre left have been accorded choice of High Representative while the centre right choose the President of the Council etc., the withdrawal of a UK candidate because Miliband as High Representative would put a stone finally on any remaining possibility of a Blair candidacy for President, because of d'Alema's abilities and experience both as Italian foreign secretary and prime minister...

D'Alema has been a communist for most of his political life - a leader of the Italian Communist party for some of it, with all that implies for immersion in the not just murky but filthy waters of Italian politics of the left in the second half of the 20th century; a left marked, too, by the politics of failure. And a man who's manoeuvres for personal advancement have brought down very competent governments under Romano Prodi, on the last occasion permitting the return to power of Silvio Berlusconi (cf the Economist on Berlusconi if you think Berlusconi was ever a good thing for any government of a member state of the European Union).

Prodi was brought down as well because he is not a centre left politician. He is a Christian Democrat of the moderate centre right; a one nation Conservative in English political terminology, who put together and then led coalitions, for whose building he was largely responsible, which produced clean(ish) effective democratic governments that took Italy into the Euro, out of Iraq, underpinned the institutions of a state shaken by corruption of the left and the right (Craxi's Socialist party anyone? Andreotti's Christian Democrats?), stabilised and encouraged economic growth and generally provided what one nation conservatism has to offer.

When Roman Prodi was President of the European Commission (1999-2004) he enjoyed the support of both centre right and centre left, of both the European People's Party and the social democratic Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament. Prodi's presidency saw in the euro, the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties, the enlargement to the East, and the creation and signing, though not the ratification, of the first European Treaty that later was reborn as Lisbon. Prodi is such a glaringly obvious candidate for the presidential role. Is d'Alema's candidacy being run as a spoiler, just as Miliband's was against Blair?

A highly competent, technically skilled politician, with intimate knowledge of every important act in the European Union's past, and a past master at coalition construction and reconciliation politics, from a middle-sized member state, must have ruled himself out to be out of the running. Which would be a pity because, not least, he could exclude d'Alema from any further political role in all our lives. The obvious country from which to draw the High Representative for Foreign Relations is Poland:they'd get foreign affairs right, they've so much to lose if they didn't.


Caronte said...

Prodi? Too old, indecisive, uncharismatic.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

I hate, detest, despise, and spit on this hole-and-corner, smoke-filled-rooms, buggins' turn, backscratching, old-boys-network, undemocratic, opaque, corrupt, unaccountable, mafia-ridden... well, since the whole description would be as long as worlds and we are hasty folk, let us just say this thing.

I know this is how European politics has worked ever since the Holy Roman Empire, perhaps earlier, but why do WE have to be part of it?

The treachery of our politicians sickens me, to entangle us in all this stuff.

hatfield girl said...

You would be of the 'stopping the traffic' Blair supporting cadres then C?

hatfield girl said...

But we are part of it now, Yacht.

At least the President of the Czech Republic threw Blair's coronation advance off timing. For that alone he deserves a major award.

The worst of it is that the Council of Ministers is now an embedded institution within our governance, not an ad hoc, prime ministers of nation states' consultation body. Who acts as its chairman is of some, but lesser, importance. Institutions and their powers are eternal, office-holders die, and their agendas with them.

There was always going to be a vote on these office-holders (After all, Lisbon requires it and sets out its form). The pretence was that there would be a confluence of view on who should be president and foreign secretary recognised and accepted by all. Rather like the pretence that Conservative party leaders 'emerged' in the UK pre Heath. Of course they didn't. Look at Douglas-Home over Butler. That must have been quite a vote, for I do not believe that Macmillan was a kingmaker.

There doesn't seem to be a kingmaker in the EU situation either - hence the open acknowledgment that voting must take place as the Treaty provides. How horrible that our weighted vote will be cast by Brown, a prime minister without democratic legitimacy and wholly off his head.

Prodi puzzles me (pace Caronte). Prodi IS the current EU, or rather the EU Lisbon seeks to establish. Look him up.

And where is Giuliano Amato in all these throwing abouts of names? d'Alema for foreign relations when we could have Amato? Or some Belgian the Belgians can ill afford when there is Amato - the heir of il Dottor' Sottile?

It's all very well going on about north western Europe and its interests and long dead claims, but what about mediterranean Europe, eastern Europe, incoming Balkans Europe? Turkish Europe. Relations with western Russia and its Caucuses dependencies post US imperial power-assertion possibilities Europe?

Give us Prodi. He has that kind of mind. And he is an honest, non-communist, man (I mean person).