Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Credit to Blair for a successful EU-presidency?

British MEP Andrew Duff joins the swelling chorus of EU-optimists after the last-minute 2007-2013 EU budget deal on December 20, in yesterday's article on / Home UK - "Credit to Blair for a successful presidency" (Financial Times, Home UK, January 9, 2006).

I have a weak spot for Tony Blair. In spite of everything: From Iraq to his latest proposals for a massive school-police, and including all his non-kept promises. He has touched in me some unconscious longing for decency and courage in politics. And even now, when I see or read him, I'm touched again.

So, you will understand that, at first, I am agreeably surprised, when (finally) I discover an appreciative note in a loud concert of loathing.

But here, I fear, a bad service is done to my hero.

Not only, in my view, all the jubilating about the December compromise is greatly overdone, but Duff's hapless effort to have Tony get his fair share of the sudden Merkel-mania ("she saved the budget!") makes things worse.

For Blair and for Europe.

It is no service to Europe, to sell the December compromise to a British public (the article is in het "Home UK" section of the paper, not in the "Europe" section) as the best of all worlds. Cynicism and uneasiness with that continental monster will be fed a little more, the moment people will feel the reality of the new EU policies that will result from the Compromise.

It is no service to Blair and his policies either. The focal point of the British EU-presidency of 2005 was a reform-agenda. It has been announced, loud and clear, in Blair's statement of July 2005 to the European Parliament. The agenda was certainly not another muddy compromise on a long term budget, that does not permit any substantial change of course for the EU. But this is, what the whole presidency has been able to deliver.

It is true: Duff points also out, that the other cabinet ministers have contributed next to nothing to the series of informal ministerial meetings that have been held inder the UK presidency. The culminating point, for me, in this respect, was the (blue) paper, Brown has submitted to his EU-colleagues. The whole glossy booklet can be summarised as: "Look how well we do. Look how badly you do." With no proposals, whatsoever, how this British model should be implemented on an EU-scale.

So, Duff's view boils down to: Tony had to do it alone. And, after a bad start, he was perfect as a tactician in secondary matters.

To me, the British Presidency produced very few matters to be credited for. The UK has indebted itself to Europe: Non-kept promises about streamlining of the constitutional treaty, about dynamising the structural funds for the Lisbon agenda, about a common security policy, etc., etc.

But: Moral debt is not a political issue: It does not exist in international policies.

Therefore, "credit" doesn't either.

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