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France 1, EU 25: It's not your grandfather's Common Market

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While I muse that France's nuclear Force de Frappe is being retargeted at certain EU capitals, the political equivalent may be just as severe as France makes a Realpolitik reassessment of the sea change wrought by the EU's European Commission president-elect, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, in the naming of the new Commission portfolios to take effect 1 November after the formality of an October endorsement by the European Parliament.

For a president-elect that was seen as neither "too pro-American for the French, nor too anti-American for the Poles," Barroso has upended the cart on the six largest EU members by appointing "a record number of women and politicians from smaller European countries to high-profile posts" while relegating the "EU heavyweights," France and Germany, to "comparatively lightweight portfolios."

All this from a fellow that started political life with the Maoist Reorganising Movement of the Proletarian Party (MRPP), becoming a leading MRPP member, denouncing "capitalism and preached the dictatorship of the proletariat," only to join the Social Democratic Party, rise through conservative ranks, join the bar, and become a "Thatcherite reformer" with close ties to the US.

Barroso supported the Iraq War, hosted the Azores "war council" summit prior to hostilities, and if you believe the socialist press, "along with Blair and Aznar, worked behind the scenes to develop the coalition and ensure the isolation of France and Germany [and] believes that an alliance with the US is Europe’s key strategic task."

This seems to give weight to La Repubblica's caution not to take Barroso as weak, noting that, "He has the makings of a good president of the EU Commission... He is such a flexible politician that he started his career as a sympathiser of Communist China and ended up the leader of an openly conservative party."

In a stroke Barroso has set a changed course for the EU's next five years by breaking tradition in handing the most important posts to Europe's heavyweights and by appointing politicians with a "reputation for laissez-faire economics and low-tax policies." Key posts went to non Franco-German hands:

  • Senior vice-president, representing Barroso in his absence, and institutional relations and communication strategy to Margot Wallström of Sweden
  • Competition and antitrust post to Neelie Kroes-Smit of the Netherlands
  • Trade post, coordinating EU common positions in trade talks, to Peter Mandelson of the UK
  • Regional policy, overseeing distribution of monies for infrastructure projects in poorer EU countries, to Danuta Hübner of Poland
  • Enlargement, which will oversee Turkish admission to the EU, to Olli Rehn of Finland
  • Financial programming and budge to Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania

As for the heavyweights:

  • The lightweight transport portfolio, dealing with the like of air traffic rules and tanker safety, to Jacques Barrot of France
  • Enterprise and industry to Günter Verheugen of Germany
  • Justice, Freedom and Security, a low position as this area is largely under member state control, to Rocco Buttiglione of Italy

Everything else, including Customs, Energy, Agriculture, Employment and Taxation, went to Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

Consider the French situation: In Electoral buffeting in Europe, I noted:

France was intent on anchoring West Germany into western orbit, while blunting its military growth and so deflecting further Soviet ire. As EC, and now EU, membership expanded southward and now eastward into former Warsaw Pact nations, it has been my opinion that it will be harder and harder for members to find common cause and effective collective policy. (They certainly will bridle under continued French hegemony of EU foreign policy.)

And in Why the French behave the way they do:

The French were stunned to emerge from the Second World War as a second tier nation. Only, in part, by leading the EC and assuming the status as spokesman for Continental Europe could France command a first tier status. The second part of their postwar nation self-image as a first tier state was their ability -- and willingness -- to project force outside the EC/NATO perimeter, hence the extensive force projection and garrison forces in Francophone Africa. And once one grasps this combination of forces, much of postwar French policy becomes clear.

Barroso's commission rejects French goals, French Eurosocialism, and French worldview. The French will now be revising their approach to the EU. Must be difficult to lose three empires in three hundred years.

Barroso increases small nations' role with new postings for EU
Thomas Fuller
International Herald Tribune
August 13, 2004

Papers assess new EU president
BBC NEWS
Published: 2004/06/30 12:53:49 GMT

Gordon Housworth



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