My feelings have already been succinctly summed up by Ari – a Finn, lest anyone get the idea this is yet another disillusioned Brit:
“Admittedly a lot of people in a lot of different countries know Tony Blair, which can’t be said for most possible candidates. Alas, he’s known for making a disastrous mistake and then not owning up to it, i.e. for showing bad judgment and not being particularly trustworthy. That sort of fame isn’t really a desirable quality in a candidate.”
Plus, of course, despite being supposedly very pro-EU, during his ten years in power Blair repeatedly failed to do anything to convince the country that being pro-EU is sensible – spending most of his time continuing John Major’s “wait and see” approach, despite being in a significantly stronger position than Major ever was throughout his time as PM. Had Blair wanted to he could, with his huge Commons majority and the inexplicable love the country had for him during his first term or so, have used his extraordinarily strong position to have pushed the EU on the UK, or at the very least to try and convince the country that closer engagement is a good plan. Instead, he did nothing.
This lack of action continued even on the continent. During the UK’s last (rotating) presidency of the EU, Blair was so invisible and uninvolved that one MEP even put out a jokey “Missing: The President of the European Union” press release. In fact, Blair’s only real engagement with Brussels during his time in office was to try to use the EU to bypass Westminster and force laws upon us that he never would have been able to get past his own MPs.
On top of that, of course, so hated is Blair in the UK that to have him as the EU’s official figurehead for (most likely) five years is merely going to further entrench British anti-EU feeling. Though he’d have been a good spokesman for the EU ten years ago, now he’d be like using Gary Glitter to advertise a primary school.
Not that the only other “name” candidate is much better. Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is so rabidly, blindly pro-EU that he makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable, still advocating the kind of total political integration that most people gave up on back in the 70s, still advocating a “United States of Europe”. It’s hard to think of anyone with views more likely to drive British europhobes into a foaming rage, or to finally convince moderate eurosceptics that there really is no hope for the EU.
So who else is there? Well, what about Romano Prodi? He’ll most likely be available soon, judging by how his luck’s been failing him in Italy. As a former president of the European Commission he’s got the experience of running things at the top of the EU (during which period he oversaw the introduction of the Euro and expansion from 15 to 25 member states). As a two-time Prime Minister of Italy he has plenty of experience of juggling the multiple interests of tenuous coalitions, essential for anyone trying to keep all 27 EU member states happy while simultaneously trying to get agreements with non-EU powers.
Blair’s experience of diplomacy, in comparison, consists largely of two options: agree entirely with everything George Bush says, or launch an invasion. Jean-Claude Juncker’s, coming as he does from a principality only slightly larger than Greater London with a population less than that of Bristol, is non-existent. And yet these are the two front-runners for a position created largely to help in the EU’s diplomatic relations? Christ…