Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Opinion

EU's man in Washington should be a politician not a bureaucrat

Everybody is aware, in the European Union as well as in the USA, that Transatlantic relations are facing challenges not seen since 1945.

The invasion of Iraq created a profound and widening gap between European public opinions (even where governments decided to support Washington) and current US policy.

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

To be accurate, it played a catalyst role by accelerating a divorce between European citizens and Washington's policy which started years before over clashes about Kyoto, the International Penal Court, Guantanamo, etc. In any case, we now definitely have a 'situation' between the EU and the USA.

Unique opportunities

In the past months, I have had two very unique opportunities to assess the scale of the problem and to listen to converging proposals to avoid a further lurch in the wrong direction.

First, in January 2004, in The Hague, I had the great opportunity to moderate the first ever top-level brainstorming seminar gathering EU 25 member diplomats about future EU/US relations. Then, 10 days ago, I had the privilege to preside and actively take part to the second Transatlantic Week organized by TIESWeb in Miami.

In both cases, a clear message came out: Europeans are not doing enough to communicate in the US what the European Union is becoming and they are not doing it effectively.

A major historical project

Most US citizens (and a significant part of the US elites including EU specialists) tend to see the EU as a mere bureaucratic machine, managed from Brussels and only concerned by trade regulations.

They widely ignore that the EU is now embarking in a major historical project to generate and manage a continental-wide democracy, gathering almost 500 million citizens from about 30 different nationalities, languages and cultures: a project which puts the EU at the forefront of the new frontier for democracy in terms of size, diversity and complexity.

Meanwhile, US citizens (and a very significant part of their elites) do not understand that the EU institutions are increasingly becoming only a part of the whole European decision process - companies, NGOs, universities and media are increasingly affecting what the EU is, and will be.

Politician or eurocrat?

At the GlobalEurope seminar of future EU/US relations in The Hague as well as in Miami with community leaders from across the EU and the USA, a clear diagnosis was made: this situation is first of all due to the inability of Europeans to explain the rapid changes which took place within the EU over the past 5 - 10 years.

And among many other elements discussed on these two occasions, another point was raised - the fact that in the USA the European Union should have a politician rather than another eurocrat to be its voice and face in media, talk-shows and conferences.

Not only will a European politician as EU ambassador to Washington show US officials, media and experts that the EU is not only a bureaucratic machine; but the individual will also be able to reach larger segments of the US population to convey European opinions, analyses and visions. The latter element will be crucial in the coming years if we really want to avoid the two public opinions drifting away from one another.

Two candidates

Of course a more pro-active policy of the European Union as such to reach out to US public opinion is required, but there again, their efficiency will depend on the ability of the EU Ambassador to Washington to reach out to civil society and be an attractive interlocutor for European civil society groups willing to engage in dialog with their US counterparts as well.

As was mentioned in EUobserver a few months ago, reflecting articles from Irish media, it seems that we have a very unique opportunity to grasp in the coming months.

A new EU Ambassador to the USA has to be appointed as the current one is reaching retirement time. Two Irish candidates look like they may well be interested in the job. Very good indeed, because, in order to reach out to US audiences, we need English speaking natives! And the strength of Europe is to have natives of so many languages.

It is also very interesting because their profiles illustrate two totally opposite sorts of men and would embody two totally different types of an EU face in the USA.

The first 'candidate' (though there is never any official candidacy for the position) is John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister - a very respected and talented politician, who recently took an active part in shaping up the future EU Constitution. He was a member of the Presidium of the Convention which prepared the Constitution and also played a key role in the development of the euro when he was acting president of the EU in 1996.

The other one is David O'Sullivan, current Secretary General of the European Commission, a career eurocrat (25 years within the European Commission), totally unknown to Europeans and who has been the top European Commission bureaucrat since 2000 (online CV not found on Europa, the EU official's website).

EU-US relations

Take a guess on which one, out of the two, can better reach out to US audiences, give a vivid, attractive image of the EU in the USA and show that bureaucrats no longer represent everything within the EU political system?

But of course, the decision process of appointing a diplomat to Washington is (as everything else within the EU administration) a very obscure process. Even if some Washington bureaucrats may prefer a 'friendly' bureaucrat, I am certain that US citizens would much rather have a human political European face.

Due to the very serious crises affecting Transatlantic relations and for the sake of future relations between Americans and Europeans, let's hope that the EU will invest in the human factor.

Eurocrats will in any case be N° 2, 3, 4 …. in the embassy!

Franck Biancheri - is Director of Studies and Strategy at the foundation Europe 2020 and President of the transatlantic organisation TIESweb

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

My plan for defending rule of law in EU

EPP leader and prospective next EU Commission president Manfred Weber spells out his plan for dealing with recalcitrant EU member states - ahead of Wednesday's EPP meeting on the vexed issue of Hungary's Viktor Orban and Fidesz.

EU must get real on Russia

The EU must call the Ukraine conflict by its true name - Russia's illegal war on its peaceful neighbour - and take commensurate action to protect peace in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

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

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us