Barroso’s Man in D.C., Redux: The Cage Fight

There are a few more repercussions bubbling up from the nomination of EU Commission President Manuel Barroso’s former chief of staff as EU ambasssador to the U.S. First of all, although the nomination clearly represents an opportunistic power grab by Barroso, it bears noting that it came after he failed to place Joao Vale de Almeida as the top appointee at the EAS. So Barroso aimed (and missed) at a higher target before settling on plucking the low-hanging fruit represented by the D.C. appointment. But it also bears noting that to do even that, Barroso basically disregarded the actual terms of the Lisbon Treaty, which required consulting with EU member states on the nomination. And de Almeida, as a functionary, represents a significantly lower profile than his predecessor, a former Irish prime minister.

Not surprisingly, all the squabbling is exacerbating the (for now accurate) perception both Stateside and among Europhiles (here and here) on this side of the Atlantic of the EU as being wildly disorganized and comprised of irreconcilable poles of competing power. But a lot of this is to be expected, since the transition period following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has been characterized by patchwork improvisations and gentlemen’s agreements. I’d also argue that this will be healthy in the long run, since it’s the institutional power struggles that will — as much as, if not more than, the treaty itself — drive the evolution of the new frameworks put in place by Lisbon.

And really, for all the derisive dismissals of Brussels, stop and consider what the American executive looks like with regard to, for instance, climate change, arms control treaties and anything else that requires Congressional oversight, approval or legislation. Everyone knows who to call to reach America, but that alone doesn’t guarantee that someone picks up, or that whoever does will be more able to deliver.

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