EurActiv (Link) (June 23, 2009)
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana yesterday (22 June) endorsed former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez as first permanent president of the European Council, should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force.
Speaking at a public event organised by the Belgian section of the Association of European Journalists in Brussels, Solana was positive about the possible nomination of Gonzalez for the job.
Answering a question, he said: "[Felipe Gonzalez] is a good friend, we have worked together for 15 years, and I know he has the energy and the capacity for the job."
Should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force by the end of 2009, the EU s first permanent president will be introduced under the Spanish EU Presidency in the first half of 2010.
"A relationship between two Spaniards - and I know them well - will be very positive, very constructive, and would bring added value," Solana said, referring to Jos Luis Rodr guez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, alongside Gonzalez.
Solana said the future EU president's chances of shaping the new institution depended on general political will on the one hand, and the personality and determination of the job holder on the other.
The Lisbon Treaty says little about the division of responsibility between the country holding the rotating EU presidency and the permanent EU president, and many believe the first six months will set an important precedent for the future.
Zapatero and Gonzalez - like Solana - are from the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE), a relationship which should enable good cooperation and ensure a smooth start for the new job.
Gonzalez is currently chairing the EU 'reflection group' put in place last year with the aim of anticipating long-term challenges facing the Union (EurActiv 14/10/09).
But while personalities such as Gonzalez and Zapatero prove the high quality of Spanish statesmen, the audience pressed Solana to comment on the risk of an "Iberian overload" should a Spaniard take the job of EU Council president and Jos Manuel Barroso, a Portuguese, be re-confirmed as Commission head for the next five years.
"It's a question for others to respond to," said Solana, amid laughter from the audience.
Solana was also positive about introducing the position of an "energy tsar" to co-ordinate Europe's dealings with Russia, although the job is not foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty. But he warned that EU countries had varying degrees of dependency on Russian gas, and coordination would not be "a simple thing".
Referring to the future EU external action service foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty, Solana said it would bring together diplomats who already work in the Commission and the Council, and those who come from member states. It is difficult to say what its exact size will be, and hard to predict the date by which it will be fully in place, Solana explained, adding that there would be no "big bang" as the service would be constituted gradually.
Solana cited Addis Ababa as an example, saying the capital of Ethiopia and the African Union had a European ambassador who represents the Commission, the Council and EU member states at the same time. He suggested that this could be a model for building similar representations elsewhere in the world, like Afghanistan and the Middle East, for example. He also called for work on the EU's new external service to begin as soon as possible.
"Better tomorrow than never," he said. †
The following is from Constance Cumbey's blog where I learned of this story:
“Be not overcome
of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
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