Posts made in February, 2010

Where is the Aristo-Cat (yet again)?

You know: I’m all for discrete diplomacy. It is a fundamental way of doing things when an issue is complexe, requires a bit of horse trading in a corridor or late-night negotiations with bad Chinese take-away and bundles of paper. In such a scenario, the less said, the better, until you reach a deal.

But diplomacy also requires panache to make the interest you represent shine in the limelight from time to time. A bit like climbing a mountain requires sweat and silent suffering but ends with firmly planting that flag at the top for the world to see.

I did not want to react after the lack of visible presence by Baroness Catherine Ashton during the Haïti events. I even constrained myself when she made her “I’m not a fireman or a nurse” remark when asked why she had not gone to Haïti. Hell, I didn’t even care that she went or not: I just wanted her to stand up and say “Europe cares and we’re doing something”. Forcefully. With whistles and bells. On YouTube, the press, the world, twitter, facebook, whatever. But: I thought: she’s new, let us give her time to settle.

Is someone missing from this picture?

Is someone missing from this picture?

Today, it’s Van Rompuy’s first European Council Summit. And guess who’s doing the statement (you can see it here): Barroso, as President of the European Commission; and Van Rompuy, as President of the Council…and that’s it. Now some will say this is done to respond to criticism that Europe does not have  a single face, a single “Who do I call” recipient. Some will also point out that according to the Treaty, the European Council only comprises “Heads of State and government”: but since when is Barroso a Head of State? Moreover art 15 (3) of the Lisbon Treaty state states that “The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy participates in the meetings”…

I think it’s just disappointing, yet again. There is a thin line between discretion and dilution in the background: Baroness Catherine Ashton should watch out she does not cross it.

The only positive note in my eyes is the fact that the Spanish rotating Presidency did not appear, because I find that system of a permanent President and a rotating Member State Presidency the real source of confusion when looking at the EU from the outside!

But let me finish on a lighter tone by quoting the Walt Disney movie, “The Aristocats”, having decided that maybe “Aristo-Cat” was becoming a fitting nickname for the Baroness:

Berlioz the Kitten: We were just practicing biting and clawing.
Duchess: Aristocats do not practice biting and clawing, and things like that. It’s just horrible.
Toulouse the Orange Kitten: But someday, we might meet a tough alley cat.

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European Parliament: No, we will not! message to the US on SWIFT

I will not go in an in-depth analysis on SWIFT: I have listed some of the excellent ones done prior to today’s vote in a previous post. I will just briefly express my satisfaction at this incredible show of class by the European Parliament, and especially the Rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, aka @JeanineHennis (though other MEPs such as Sophia in’t Veld, Jan Albrecht and Alex Alvaro and many other merit to share in the victory too).

Voting against SWIFT is one thing, but doing it so massively and across party lines is even more remarkable, as it shows that legitimate concerns for European citizens can unite the European Parliament in defending them.

One wonders yet again at the clumsiness with which the Council and European Commission (in no particular order) took care of this dossier, seemingly still oblivious of the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is changing the balance of Power in Brussels. When I talk about lobbying, I always say it boils down to 3 things, what I call the “3Ps”: People, Procedures and Power. Boy, did they get the Power bit wrong this time!

In honour of this historical decision, I couldn’t resist to dree Lino in an appropriate outfit:

Lino mimicking the attitude of the EP today facing the US, Council and Commission

Lino mimicking the attitude of the EP today facing the US, Council and Commission

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Barroso II vote in European Parliament: did you hear the music too?

Today, as expected, the Barroso II Commission was approved by the European Parliament, with an overwhelming positive vote of 70% (higher than Barroso I in 2004, that was had 66%), based on the approval of the 3 largest political groups (EPP, ALDE and S&D).

No surprise there.

The debate however prior to the vote was to me, quite disappointing. Politics are like reading a good novel. Either the end of the book is unexpected and subject to multiple changes, in which case reaching it becomes the goal of the reader. Or the end is predictable, and then the talent of the author is to make the trip to reach that end as enjoyable as possible. You could also think of the old Columbo TV series: you always knew who the murderer was, but the purpose of each show was to understand the why and how. For the fans, it was not a case of “whodunit” but one of “howcatchem“.

So my frustration came from, well frankly, the lameness of the debate. Thank God for Dany le Rouge (Daniel Cohn-Bendit), who livened it all up with his flamboyant intervention and “Ta Gueule!” to Martin Schultz!

To me, the exercise looked like the wonderful interaction of a well-oiled orchestra and made me put together the short little film below.

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