10 October 2009

Blair set to become EU President

By Lee Marsden

The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by Irish voters has paved the way for the possible installation of former Prime Minister Tony Blair to the new post of EU president. The position is that of figurehead and answers Henry Kissinger's famous question of "who should I ring if I want to speak to Europe" the answer, as early as the end of this month, could be Tony Blair. Officially, the post involves representing the views of the 27 member states, chairing the European Council and, rather ambiguously, driving its work. The post could become as significant as the incumbent chooses to make it. A charismatic figure such as Tony Blair could have great sway in being able to influence the future direction of the EU, particularly in its relations with the outside world. The salary of £242,000 pa, personal staff of twenty, £37,000 pa housing allowance, chauffeur and other perks are unlikely to be the main motivation for a man who has, according to his biographer Adam Boulton, earned over £15 million since leaving office two years ago, but will undoubtedly help. European publics will have no say in the appointment, which is based on a vote of the 27 heads of state with support for Blair apparently coming from Sarkozy, Brown and probably Angela Merkel.

Blair's appointment would certainly increase the EU's international profile but at what cost? While Jonathon Powell, his former chief-of-staff, touts his friend's credentials around Europe as an international statesman, Middle East envoy, pioneer for climate change and Africa and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, others may recall a rather different Tony Blair. A Tony Blair who misled the British public and parliament about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his non existent weapons of mass destruction. A man who is to be a key witness into the Iraq War enquiry, which will take place, if appointed, during his first term of office. A prime minister who led the country into wars at the behest of the United States and was once dubbed by Nelson Mandela as the "US Foreign Minister". A leader who promoted the neoliberal economic policies that resulted in the global economic crisis. A Middle East 'peace envoy' who in two years has visited Gaza just once and failed to speak out about the Israeli invasion less than twelve months ago. A man who avoided being implicated in the MPs expenses scandal because an official 'accidently', we're assured, shredded his expenses claims. Although we do know that he claimed £7000 in roof repairs on his constituency home just two days before leaving office, and earlier remortgaged the same house for £296,000 in order to pay the deposit on his £3.5 million Connaught Square town house with the added benefit of being able to claim one third of the interest payments on expenses.

Since leaving office, the man who did 'not do God' while in power has converted to Catholicism and started a faith foundation to increase religious influence on political processes. In a Europe which has grown increasingly secular over the past century Blair's religious fervour strikes a discordant note more in tune with the United States than the European Union. Which of course, apart from the undemocratic nature of the appointment, is the main problem of any Blair presidency, the willingness to subjugate British (soon to be European) interests to those of the United States. A close aide was quoted in The Times (3 October) as saying "if there was a genuine sense that people wanted him I think he would be up for it". Many thousands of people across Europe are busily signing a petition at http://stopblair.eu/ to send a message that he is not wanted.

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