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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Irony alert

In the corridors of the European Parliament today Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies climbed onto a chair and announced his bid to apply for the prestigious new role of EU President, should the Lisbon Treaty come into force.

Challenging the idea that the role should go to an ex-Prime Minister or President, as outlined in a recent paper circulated to EU capitals by the Benelux countries, Davies said: "This is a job that should be open to anyone to apply for. And if that means there are millions of applicants to sift through, then it will be worth it in the interests of democracy."

According to PA:

Mr Davies has written to all EU leaders insisting his qualifications for the job are as good as the other candidates suggested so far - including Tony Blair and former Irish president Mary Robinson.

In a dig at Mr Blair, Mr Davies points out that he has never deceived a parliament or been responsible for the illegal invasion of another country. Mr Davies said the "circle of individuals" who could be considered was too small, adding: "The backroom manoeuvrings now taking place are a very poor substitute for an open selection process. We have millions of talented people in Europe, and more than half of them are women, so why is the recruitment net not being cast wider?

"European citizens should be told whether this is just a beauty contest for middle aged males or a professional recruitment exercise intended to select the best person for the job, someone with ideas about how to shape Europe's future."

Mr Davies' letter to EU leaders says: "I am a man in my 50s, with a Cambridge University education and 30 years of political experience, I believe I possess qualifications similar to those of other potential candidates named in the media.

"To my credit I can claim that, unlike some of my rivals, I have never deceived either of the two parliaments to which I have belonged, and I bear no responsibility for the illegal invasion of another country that led to the death of many thousands of innocent people. I hope these facts will not prejudice my application."

The letter adds: "Although the position has not yet been advertised, and the criteria for selection has not been determined, I have no doubt that the Council (of EU leaders) will want to follow good employment practice and to select the best person for the job."

Now, here at Open Europe we rather like Chris Davies - he is a dedicated transparency campaigner and did well on these issues in our ranking of all MEPs earlier in the year.

And he's quite right about the lack of democracy in this EU President post - he or she will be nominated by a qualified majority of 27 heads of state meeting in the EU Council, with no input from national parliaments, let alone the people. (Compare that with the 70 million-strong mandate Barack Obama has).

And the idea that it must be an ex-Prime Minister or President underlines this lack of democracy even further - it basically means we are very likely to end up with someone who has fallen from grace and/or failed to get re-elected in their own country. (Compare that to the current situation, where the democratically-elected heads of state, who have a current mandate from the people, take it in turns to be EU President for 6 months at a time).

All that said, however, it is pretty hypocritical for a Lib Dem politician, of all people, to be complaining about this now. It's a bit late, Chris. Why didn't you raise any of these objections when the Treaty was still being negotiated? Why didn't ANY of the Lib Dems' representatives in either the European Parliament, the Commons or the House of Lords want to discuss all this stuff when they had the opportunity, when the Treaty was going through the Houses of Parliament last year?

Why, instead, have the Lib Dems pushed this Treaty and argued it's the best thing since sliced bread? And when Tory MPs and peers tried in Parliament for the promised referendum to be given to the British people, did the Lib Dems go back on their word and block the motions?

Davies says he doesn't want Tony Blair to become EU President, and neither do a majority of delegates attending the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth earlier this month. But, as we've said before, it is precisely thanks to these so-called 'Liberal Democrats' that this job has been created in the first place. And even if the British government decided it didn't want Tony, that would be tough luck if the a majority of the other EU leaders did.

Welcome to the post-Lisbon Treaty reality.

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