Liberals could aim high
European Voice (Link) (July 30, 2009)
There are remarkably few names being put forward to be the next high representative for foreign policy, a role that could go to the Liberals.
With the next European Commission president likely to come from the centre-right political family, and the first full-time president of the European Council expected to be from the centre-left, the third major institutional job, the new double-hatted high representative for foreign policy, may well go to the Liberals.
The Liberal political family has a good candidate � current European commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn, from Finland.
Rehn is widely regarded as having done a solid job as commissioner, keeping the enlargement process ticking over amid increasing opposition in French and German political circles to admitting Turkey.
Javier Solana, the current high representative, has been successful in low-key diplomatic negotiations away from the public spotlight.
Rehn has proved he would be able to operate in the same way. But Finland not being a member of NATO could count against him, as could the fact that a Danish Liberal, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is secretary-general of NATO.
There are strikingly few names circulating for this post. One other possible candidate who has emerged in recent weeks � German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier � seems implausible for several reasons.
First, Steinmeier's party, the Social Democrats (SPD), is expected to do badly in September's general elections and so would no longer be part of the governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). This would remove any incentive for Merkel to give the SPD a major EU post � a customary element in the negotiations on sharing out the ministerial jobs in a coalition government. Merkel is expected to form the next coalition government with either the liberal Free Democrats or the Greens.
Another consideration that weighs against Steinmeier is that under the Lisbon treaty, the high representative will also be a member of the Commission as a vice-president.
The CDU hierarchy is adamant that the party should provide the next commissioner as there has not been a CDU commissioner since Karl-Heinz Narjes in 1988. In addition, Merkel has made it clear that she wants the next German commissioner to have a heavyweight economic portfolio such as the single market or competition � and the foreign policy portfolio would not suffice.
Germany may also have its sights on a new Commission portfolio combining energy and climate change, which many governments, including the UK, see as one of the best jobs in the next Commission.
This new portfolio would have responsibility for tackling climate change with all the implications for Germany's energy sector and carbon dioxide-intensive car and chemicals industries.
It would also involve developing new energy sources by promoting technologies and dealing with the external aspects of energy policy, such as relations with Russia.
Steinmeier's fate will be decided by Germany's complex internal politics (see box, right) as much as by considerations of EU external relations.