“We are talking too much about the president and not enough about the high representative”

With Mary Robinson declaring herself out of the running, and Tony Blair undeclared but campaigning for the job, is John Bruton the first to officially throw his hat into the ring as a candidate for EU President President of the EU Council? At the Guardian, Tim Garton Ash warns that the figurehead president is not the post that matters most

To give Europe a stronger voice in the world also requires a machinery that does not yet exist. But it’s the responsibility of the new high representative for foreign and security policy, not the new president, to build up that machinery. Unlike the president, the high representative, who is simultaneously a vice-president of the European commission, will have a large budget and a large staff. He or she will have the difficult but vital task of melding officials and diplomats from two different European bureaucracies and 27 national ones into a single European foreign service, capable of identifying shared European interests and the instruments we possess to advance them. He or she, working with the president of the European commission, will also need to establish linkages to the real motors of the EU’s external power: enlargement policy, development aid, trade, regulation and competition policy. There’s the beef. We are talking too much about the president and not enough about the high representative.

Adds Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell thinks Bruton is “well worth a considerable flutter.”

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  • A small point of order, perhaps, before this goes anywhere.

    The post in question is not ‘EU President’ or ‘President of the EU’ – it is President of the EU Council. The Council is only one of the three arms of the EU – the other two (Commission and Parliament) already have Presidents (Barroso and Jerzy Buzek).

  • Pete Baker

    Amended.

  • DC

    Blair FTW

  • Randomer

    Bruton? You’d be better appointing a brick

  • Cincinnatus

    John Bruton wd be a superb choice. He played a major role in the constitution deliberations/report years ago and did a huge amount in Washington to repair the very bad relations between Western Europe and the Bush Administration over the second Gulf War and shredding of multilateralism by the Bush ideologues. The previous ambassador was a cold German bureaucrat from the Brussels apparatchik stable and disliked among the politicians in Washington and not liked at his embassy, so there was much to fix. Bruton travelled constantly around the country, picked off Senators and Congressman for one on one meetings and lunches and dinners to sell his brief and as a former head of govt. had more clout to wander a bit off his brief when needed. He was an amazingly energetic figure in Washington speaking at meetings and attending receptions etc every day and on weekends and winning friends and influencing people. The politicians loved him because he was one of them and his good humour and positive attitude and intelligence and knowledge of policy went down well with policy and think tank people etc. I don’t know how the politics of the selection of Pres will go but he wd be a far better choice than fudger Blair who comes from a country which was and is ambivalent about EU membership. Good luck to Bruton. Hope he gets it. A coup for Ireland and the Union and the world if he does.

  • I suppose John Bruton’s Bilderberg and Trilateral Commission connections might come in handy.

  • Cincinnatus

    Nevin, are you a conspiracy theorist ? The Trilateral Commission is almost brain dead and full of old farts. They have hardly any role any more. Same with Bilderberg. OK, elites have always had a bigger say than the rest of us but Bruton has never been a conspiring elitist. He moves among his peer group ! Surprise ! His roots are in Ireland which he loves. A more open person you could not imagine — compare him with Bertie the cunning operator and deal maker. What next ? Are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion next in the pecking order ? The Council on Foreign Relations ? Chatham House ?
    The WEB has made any “secret” dealings much much less secret. I wd remind you that the Multilateral Agreement on Investment was defeated on the web some years ago by the NGOs. The elite lost. Now there is not just the G8 there is the G20. I suppose Goldman Sachs is on the hit list — and in their case, rightly so after the public bailout created a situation where they have fat profits again as the big cat amongst the pigeons. But John Bruton as a Svengali type ? Hardly. A practical idealist. And I don’t share his social affairs/moral views either. But Blair ? What integrity does he have ? Zilch.
    Bruton warned about the debt/bank/developers issue and nobody wanted to know. And Cowen was the Finance Minister so we can’t blame it all on The Bert, altho his brilliant tactical moves led to a strategic disaster.

  • Cincinnatus, the same names seem to keep cropping up amongst these elitest groups; here’s a 2008 listing.

    I take your point about the difficulties created for such groups by the WWW but revelations on the web may not make in into the MSM, the source of much of our information.

    I don’t see Bruton as a Svengali type either but I don’t know whether or not he’s an independent thinker.

  • Guest

    The obsequiousness of Bruton’s forelock tugging display to the Para Prince in Dublin Castle is seared in the memory of many. I for one can still recall the stomach churning effect of his claim that the British royal was everything “we” aspired to. That any self-respecting leader of a state proclaiming to be an independent republic could utter such drivel is almost incomprehensible.

    Nevin,He is indeed a boot-licker.

  • Cincinnatus

    Nevin, I know the names, and some are very very old now. The Tril Comm was a bigger deal 40 years ago when Zbig Brez was its exec dir but it is a busted flush these days. Don’t rely on this conspiracy theory stuff on the web. Check things out on The Economist site — I know, you will tell me it’s another elitist mag; it is and high quality and I don’t always agree with its conservative views — or on websites which are credible. I just don’t buy the
    “the elites are out to get us” stuff on the web. Hey, the Irish voted against the referendum the first time — isn’t that an example of going against the establishment ? Same happened in two other European states. People also throw out governments regularly. And e.g. on Peter Sutherland, OK, he is Fine Gael and an elitist but he has argued for years for including developing countries’ views big time in trade rounds and set up a development inst. at TCD and was on the board of a progressive int dev think tank in the USA. He pushed hard as competition commissioner in the EU against cartels.
    I understand your concern but Bruton isn’t part of the cabal and keeps his own counsel. For example, on Northern Ireland policy he was not “John Unionist” as the Shinners tried to label him. He simply tried to reach out to BOTH sides in NI which is not actually something Bertie or Albert ever did seriously, despite their blarney, until well into the GFA negotiations. Reaching out to the unionists equally was a courageous thing for Bruton to have done and there was no mileage in it for him at home and he got bugger all thanks from the thran unionists. He also was the one who started reform of the tax regime ruined by that crook Haughey and which produced the Celtic Tiger, warts and all. Do you think Bruton would have paid off every interest group one after the other just to stay in power regardless of the long term consequences for the country like Bertie did ? I don’t think so.

  • Brit

    “for one can still recall the stomach churning effect of his claim that the British royal was everything “we” aspired to. That any self-respecting leader of a state proclaiming to be an independent republic could utter such drivel is almost incomprehensible.”

    Maybe it was evidence that the RoI had grown up and was post-nationalist, and no longer defined by an anti-Britishness and victimhood narrative. Being able to be nice to that cretin, and playing along with the strange British instition of Monarchy, is exactly what the French or German PM/President would have done.

    My vote, if I had one, would go to Blair. A great statesman, one of the best communicators of his generation, and someone with a global profile which is higher than Bruton.

  • Cincinnatus

    And as for “Guest,” OK maybe Bruton went too OTT on Charlie Boy. But Charlie Boy’s uncle was murdered by the IRA and it is damn near time the British head of state was received in the Republic just as the two Marys were at the palace. This is an island with two allegiances and we need to have room for them both.
    In terms of boot-licking do we have to remind you of the appalling “circumspection” and adherence to “protocol” of Dev signing the book of condolence to Hitler at the Nazi embassy ? God almighty let’s move on. Why do we never see at any major Dublin hotel flying EU member state flags, the UK flag ? After all these decades this seems incredible. And why does the national broadcaster still, twice a day, broadcast the Angelus ?! And an Irish defence forces honour guard for the St Therese of Lisieux ceremonies ! Was that neccessary ? Separation of church and state ! Now we have the Irish Govt. trying to cut back on funding of Prod schools where poor Prods (and there are poor Prods, esp in the country) will suffer. So much for inclusion of minorities. Bruton, rightly, tried to right a wrong by recognising the contribution in World War 2 of Irish volunteers who fought against Hitler. And it is tawdry to say the majority did it for the dough. It was a just war if ever there was one and these people were forgotten. Cherish all the children of the nation EQUALLY ? Wd like to see that happen more than at present. Pluralism in Ireland ? A ways to go…..

  • Guest

    I’m glad you agree he went over the top.

    We obviously disagree on why he went over the top.
    I think it was because he is a boot-licker and self-admitted Redmonite revisionist.
    Devalera signed the book for the very inverse reason.
    why does the UK state flag still incorporate the cross of St.Patrick when it is clear that the vast majority of Irish people do not wish to be part of that Union,and a large percentage of those who do do not consider themselves not Irish but only British.
    As for seperation of Church and state.I’m in complete agreement if only people like you could stop equating religion with a view on the British union.
    And as for”But Charlie Boy’s uncle was murdered by the IRA and it is damn near time the British head of state was received in the Republic”.well,That’s the problem with being commander and chief.

  • Brit

    Obviously Guest you havent embraced the post-nationalist Irishness which has put its victim-cult and anti-Britishness behind it!!

  • Guest

    No.Brit.

    You misunderstand.My point is that Bruton, in acting like a frolicking idiot and aspiring child to Prince charles was showing a failure to represent post-nationalist Ireland ,post-victim-cult whatever you like..
    You was representing a boot-licking Redmonite revisionist.The man has not even got to post-independence never behind post nationalislm.

  • Dave

    “Obviously Guest you havent embraced the post-nationalist Irishness which has put its victim-cult and anti-Britishness behind it!!” – Brit

    Well, a few folks told them that is what they were voting for, while those europhiles who are now telling them that is what they voted for were assuring them that is wasn’t what they were voting for. That’s typical europhile chicanery. Tell the sheep something they don’t want to happen isn’t happening so that they don’t need to oppose it by voting against it; and then when it does happen, tell them they that they wanted it to happen and that’s why they voted for it. Usually, their vanity is such that they don’t want to admit to themsleves that they were tricked by shabby europhile shysters into it so they start to think that is why they actually did vote for it.

    Bruton and Blair shows why expired political hacks love the EU: it extends their expired pollitical careers – and it does so independently of the electorate.

  • yukkkkk

    The obsequiousness of Bruton’s forelock tugging display to the Para Prince in Dublin Castle is seared in the memory of many. I for one can still recall the stomach churning effect of his claim that the British royal was everything “we” aspired to.
    Says a lot about Bruton if he aspires to be camillas tampon.

  • Guest

    Glad yo got it “yukkkkk”

  • Dave

    Incidently, some folks also warned that the creation of a post of EU president (and forget the pretence that this insn’t intended to symbolise the EU as an emergent state) and the post of foreign minister were designed to transfer the external functions of the formerly independent states in the EU to the new state of the EU. Internal regions do not require external functions such as foreign affairs. There is now little pretence made that the existting embassies of the formerly independent states will either close as those functions are incrementally transferred to the new state. That is also something that europhiles said wouldn’t happen as a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty but which its opponents warned them would happen and was designed to happen. Other external functions of a state include, of course, FDA and is armed forces. Those functions will also be fully transferred to the new state in due course. At any rate, it doesn’t matter who is to be the new EU president since this regime is to appoint him in accordance with its anti-democratic principles, and as the plebs are not to elect their new president, they need not be concerned abou who governs them. Such concern is just a hangover from the former period in history when they elected their leaders.

  • Dave

    Typo: ” Other external functions of a state include, of course, [b]FDI[/b] and is armed forces.”

  • Cincinnatus, I’ve got a different perspective. I don’t view the elites as out to get us but rather to further the interests of their more powerful members. It’s quite likely that some in the cabal, for example, would give financial assistance to both of the main candidates in a US presidential election.

    You could have pointed out that the Irish had to vote again each time they got the ‘wrong’ result 😉

    Bruton was certainly more accommodating of the Unionist position than other Taoisigh but when it came to a straight choice at Drumcree in July 1996 he adopted the pan-Nationalist one. He didn’t have the guts to point out that the then RUC Chief Constable had been forced to carry the can for decisions he merely advised on but didn’t take.

  • Wilde Rover

    Cincinnatus,

    “The Trilateral Commission is almost brain dead and full of old farts. They have hardly any role any more. Same with Bilderberg.”

    Yeah, cos rich old white men have nothing to do with how things are run.

    “Hey, the Irish voted against the referendum the first time—isn’t that an example of going against the establishment?”

    “Same happened in two other European states.”

    A second vote in Ireland and no subsequent votes in France or the Netherlands – more pissing in the wind than going against the establishment.

    “or on websites which are credible.”

    Shades of “no true Scotsman” there.