EU President: The Knives Come Out

The knives are coming out in the EU president sweepstakes, which will be decided this evening at an EU heads of state meeting. Already today I’ve seen a piece describing a whisper campaign against Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who as the current occupant of the pre-Lisbon rotating EU presidency is in charge of organizing the selection process. Reinfeldt has been demanding a shortlist of two names enjoying the potential for unanimous consensus. Given how hard it is to meet that qualification, and how opaque the deliberations are, there’s a lot of room for arbitrary interference. (I’ve lost the link somehow, but will update when I track it back down.)

And now, at the eleventh hour, a speech given by one of the front-runners for the job, Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, back in 2004 has resurfaced. In it, Van Rompuy flatly rejects Turkey’s claim to EU membership, based solely on Turkey’s Islamic character being in opposition to the “Christian values” of Europe.

Meanwhile, the calls for a woman to be appointed to at least one of the two remaining posts are growing, as is criticism of the undemocratic nature of the process. I mentioned both yesterday, but I think it bears pointing out that the real promise of Lisbon is not immediate. It’s only natural that the current selection process (as opposed to election process) reflects the EU’s current technocratic/bureaucratic nature, as well as its current tension between supranational and governmental authority. So, opaque and undemocratic.

The real promise of Lisbon lies in its transformative potential. The first EU president might very well surprise us. But I think it’s the second or third, aided by the growing role of the EU parliament in the intervening years, who will really have the chance to shake things up and make the process more democratic. In other words, to be continued . . .