Monday

16th Sep 2019

Patten signals interest in EU foreign minister job

British politician Chris Patten has said the EU should take a tougher line on Russia, Israel and selfish member states in a mini-manifesto for the post of EU foreign relations chief.

His speech, delivered at a seminar in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday (28 September), outlined a four-part EU foreign policy involving: a "robust" defence of Russia's neighbours, sanctions against Iran, enlargement to Ukraine and Turkey and building stronger relations with China, India and Brazil.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Over the past few years, we've given the Russians the impression that we've accepted their notion of sphere of influence as though we were still dealing with the diplomacy of the 19th century. I don't think we've been firm enough in our dealings with Russia," Mr Patten said.

Describing Russian gas supplier Gazprom as Moscow's "weapon of choice," he advocated "establishing a single European energy policy and persuading countries such as Germany and Italy to give up the idea of having national energy champions" as a countermove.

He took several swipes at the EU's reluctance to stand up to Israel on issues such as illegal settlement building in the West Bank or its bloody assault on Gaza earlier this year.

"Sometimes there are member states which seem to prefer in practice giving the Israeli foreign ministry a veto over European policy," Mr Patten said.

"I can't remember any other time when I felt more humiliated at being a European," he remarked on the Gaza events.

The former EU commissioner also hammered Germany in his analysis of emerging threats to the union's ambition to become a global economic power.

Mr Patten said that Berlin's handling of the recent takeover of car maker Opel is not about "seeking to protect European jobs and European plants. It is trying to protect German jobs and German plants ... The European Commission cannot possibly stand on the sidelines while the single market is wrecked."

Joking aside

The British politician re-iterated his interest in taking on the new job of EU foreign minister, as drawn up in the Lisbon Treaty. But he made light of his chances with characteristic wit. "Given the sort of sentiments I just expressed, the likelihood of anybody asking me is even more remote," he said.

At first glance, Mr Patten is an outside bet.

As a member of the British Conservative party, his European credentials have been marred by the party's vaulting euroscepticism. The EU's centre-left political family has also laid claim to the foreign minister job after seeing a centre-right politician take the European Commission president post.

But the composition of the audience at Monday's seminar gave an indication of how seriously his candidature is being considered in Brussels.

Among the 80 or so MEPs and commission officials, senior EU establishment figures such as Belgian industrialist Etienne Davignon and the EU's special representative to the Middle East, Marc Otte, gave up their evening to hear him speak.

Mr Patten is highly popular among EU officials, who say the task of building a new EU institution - the External Action Service - would be impossible for someone with no previous experience at European commissioner level.

The Blair gambit

On this logic, the UK's open backing of ex-prime minister Tony Blair for the other Lisbon Treaty job of EU president could be a gambit designed to later sacrifice the Blair candidacy for a Patten appointment.

Mr Patten in an aside on Monday poked fun at the ex-PM's alleged gutlessness in his current role as an international envoy to the Middle East.

"Perhaps the only good thing which came out of it [the recent Gaza conflict] from a European point of view was that it led eventually to Mr Blair visiting Gaza, which he was unable to do for some reason before," he quipped.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

European voters believe that EU's foreign policies should be more coherent and effective in order to remain neutral in potential international conflicts, since most EU citizens no longer rely on the US security guarantee, according to a new report.

News in Brief

  1. No new backstop proposal at Juncker-Johnson lunch
  2. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  3. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  4. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  5. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  6. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  7. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  8. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us