EU Presidency

By the end of the week we will know, courtesy of the Irish referendum, whether the Lisbon Treaty is alive or dead.  If the Irish vote yes, we will have in the goodness of time the new position of President of Europe.  Writing in The Independent today, Sir Ivor Roberts reminds us that this finally provides us with the answer to the question posed by Henry Kissinger thirty years ago when he asked: “Who do I call when I want to call Europe?”

Given the powers of national sovereignty retained by individual countries, this new position will clearly have a strictly limited executive function, but the creation of a permanent leadership position for Europe will inevitably create a new power center beyond the expectations of the treaty drafters.  Indeed, the personality and style of the first EU president could far outlast his or her tenure, just as George Washington’s character and chosen behaviors imprinted practices for the presidency of the fledgling republic 220 years ago.  Not a new imperial court, perhaps, but certainly a web of influence extending far beyond the job description.  Public affairs specialists should watch the staffing support model for the first permanent EU presidency with great care.

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