The EU and Tony Blair, the ineffectual loser
Another load of Blairite EU-nonsense? An attempt to make it look like we're actually making an effort after the US farm subsides offer and ahead of the WTO meeting this week? Or is this just Prescott picking up his notes from a few months back by mistake?
Yep, he's mentioned the whole "we'll scrap the rebate in exchange for CAP reform" thing again - this time also swinging a few wild shots at the sacred cow that is the rebate by branding it a mistake and - effectively - Maggie Thatcher a bit of a wimp for taking the easy option back when the negotiations for the bloody thing were going on.
We can probably expect a few more vocal yet half-hearted noises about EU reform from Blair's lot over the next couple of months. Because a couple of months is all they've got left of their presidency - in which, as of yet, they have achieved precisely tit all. And now, of course, they also have the possible threat of Bird Flu to distract everyone from Blair's much-promoted "reforming agenda" that they spouted so much crap about back in the summer when we took over the presidency.
Today, Liberation has a fun article slagging off the "political inertia of the British presidency", hot on the heels of the amusing sarcasm of Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, the vice-president of the EPP-ED Group, who last week put out a press release as follows:
"We have lost the President of the Council. From what we hear he is the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, although nobody has seen or heard of him since the summer recess ended. Useful indications concerning his whereabouts and especially his activities will be gladly received by the European citizens"Karas also noted something that most Brits have become all too used to since 1997 - "we hear from hard work behind the scenes from his cabinet ministers, but the man himself is showing none of his promised European leadership". Replace "European" for "domestic", Karas could easily have been talking about Blair at home...
Liberation quotes a few other Europeans who are less than iimpressed with Blair's "achievements":
"You've got to judge the performance of this presidency by other criteria that those that usually apply... as the United Kingdom thinks that the EU already does too much, one imagines that by not doing anything they're fulfilling their objectives perfectly!"So, has Blair become a Eurosceptic again, as he used to be back in the early 1980s (when he was also anti-nuke, anti-US, and a pacifist)? Is he following Kilroy's line of basically doing tit all when it comes to Europe because he can't be arsed with it?
Blair may have made bold claims about his EU plans. He may claim to be a "passionate European". But actions speak far, far louder than words - especially words coming from Blair or anyone in his circle. As of yet there has been no action. At all.
The uncertainty of the German situation, the ongoing potential exit of Blair, the likely ousting of Chirac and the hope of the booting out of Berlusconi, combined with the rousing defeat for the piss-poor constitution, spats with Turkey and ongoing disputes with the US over air travel, steel, farm subsidies and the like ensures that, at present, no one knows what the hell's going on, and no one's been prepared to commit to anything when they know that in a couple of years' time the leaderships of the main EU countries could look very different indeed. Why do a deal with Blair when you might be able to get something more sensible from Brown, a man our EU cousins seem to respect rather more? Why argue with the stubborn bastard Chirac when he's going to be out on his arse in a year or so?
This UK presidency is turning into a six month EU-wide holiday. Time for everyone to put their feet up and take stock of the situation, ponder their strategies over the next decade or so, and work out who their allies might be. In other words, Blair's lame-duck presidency could be precisely what the EU needs. A time out, a chance to regroup - and certainly a chance for Germany to sort out who the hell it is who's going to be speaking for them on the international stage. Because until Germany's got a stable government again (the final line-up of Merkel's cross-party cabinet is expected to be announced today, but it'll still take a while to stabilise), no EU negotiations are ever going to get anywhere.
The fact that Blair and co seem genuinely to have thought that they could achieve something significant with their six months as the nominal head of Europe, that they would actually make some progress on so many issues, simply makes the whole thing that much more enjoyable.
But what Blair and co failed to realise, having won three General Elections with no effort, and having had an immense parliamentary majority to ensure every piece of legislation always goes through without too much fuss, is that to succeed in grown-up politics you actually have to make a bit of effort. All they've done with this presidency is hold some press conferences, announce some initiatives, and expect everything to somehow come together. That may work in Britain - it won't cut it on the continent.
Put Blair up against real politics, this is how he fares - inertia and withdrawal. Blair's international policies have pretty much all been dismal failures - about the only thing he's succeeded at is getting the Olympics for London, something which will end up costing the country billions with very little return. It doesn't bode well for his much-vaunted post-Prime Ministerial career as some kind of world statesman - and has certainly put down any suggestions of Blair becoming the first permanent President of Europe. Which, once again, can only be a good thing. Prime Minister Blair is bad enough - President Blair, as he's proved over the last few months, is an ineffectual loser.