Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Least surprising appointment

Having disposed of the Presidential position, the EU leaders are turning their attention to that of the Foreign Minister. That's the one that, according to the BBC, will not institute an EU foreign policy, despite specific provisions for that in the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice, as well as the Constitution.

Javier Solana, the present High Representative for foreign affairs is set to be re-confirmed in that position but the leaders are doing more than that: they are laying down plans for Solana to become the first Foreign Minister, combining his present position with that of the present Commissioner for External Affairs, as soon as the Constitution is implemented in all 25 members.

This is not surprising. Javier Solana was always the favourite for that role. Should all this go ahead – and implementation in 25 member states may well prove more difficult than expected – SeƱor Solana will automatically become a Vice-President of the Commission and will have his own separate staff, as well as a diplomatic corps to command.

This means that the EU's common foreign and security policy will be lodged firmly with the Commission and the present dual arrangement whereby the Commissioner in charge of External Affairs competes with the High Representative, who is responsible to the Council of Ministers, will cease. There will not even be any pretence that member states can have any say in the matter. At least, not in theory. The practice of cobbling together a common foreign policy between 25 member states with such disparate interests may well prove beyond Solana's abilities.

An odd side-issue here will be the question of a Spanish Commissioner. Each country will, in the post-Nice Commission, be allowed one member. Solana will be Spain's Commissioner and there will be no other. One wonders whether the Spanish Government has quite realized this.

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