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Friday, April 05, 2013

Is Sikorski in with a chance of being the next EU foreign minister?

Europe's next foreign minister?
With the current Commission term due to expire next year speculation is already turning to who will replace the current crop – especially the ‘top jobs’ of Commission President (or will Barroso go for a Roosevelt-esque third term?) and the high representative for foreign affairs, a post currently occupied by Britain’s own Baroness Cathy Ashton.

There has been much speculation that following her widely acknowledged ‘low-key’ performance in the role (in fairness this was not entirely her fault), her successor would be a well-established ‘foreign policy star’, with Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski widely tipped. However, while Sikorski would indeed have a degree of ‘star appeal’ and foreign policy credibility (certainly when compared with Ashton), here are the reasons why we think this is unlikely.

Firstly, Sikorski is hugely ambitious and it is difficult to see him agreeing to take-up a position where his ability to seriously influence events will be limited by the well documented limitations of EU foreign policy. In particular Sikorski has ambitions for greater EU military co-operation and will unlikely be satisfied by firing off carefully worded press releases about human rights abuses in developing countries. Yet while many EU countries want to see the EEAS delivering more, many are also reluctant to hand over too much competence in the field of foreign policy decision making to the EU given very real differences of opinion on key issues – most recently Syria. Likewise, EU defence co-operation remains more realistic on paper than on the ground, not least with current spending restrictions, while the recent Cypriot crisis demonstrated Europe’s weakness in that it was willing to gamble Russia gaining greater political and economic influence on the island.

Furthermore, assuming that Sikorski genuinely wants the job, he is somewhat of a marmite character which could cost him support in national capitals. His strong neo-conservative and Atlanticist tendencies are likely to cost him support, not least in Paris, while the Germans may fear that his candidacy would antagonise Russia. Conversely, he has also become a vocal champion for greater EU integration, famously calling on Germany to play an active leading role in Europe, which could also cost him support, especially in the current climate. While his Atlanticism and his strong British links (he was a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford) ought to secure UK support, his rather clumsly recent intervention into UK domestic politics, when he announced that Poland would not help the UK to “wreck or paralyse the EU” and listing a number of tired and clichéd 'EU myths' is not likely to gone down well in Whitehall and Westminster.

Finally, there is also much speculation that current Polish PM Donald Tusk could be being lined up to replace Barroso, in which case Sikorski's candidacy for high representative would be a non-starter.

All in all we would expect the next high representative, while likely to be more heavyweight than Baroness Ashton, will nonetheless not be someone with a personality and profile to challenge national leaders’ primacy in the area of foreign policy.


Rik said...

Looks like one of the few who could become a bridge between the different regions of the EU. One of the few non-NWesteners that will be acceptable to the public overthere. Almost looks human so to say.
Will be a huge improvement compared to Ashton (which doesnot say a thing as it still wonders me that the government sector keeps accepting the kind of rubbish she delivered for 4 years, while in business she would have been out within a year max.).
However the organisation should be put in place imho (another failure by Ashton), you probably need more a Rompuy kind of guy iso a showing off type.

Barosso is a similar story as Ashton. Nobody with a brain would keep a guy with approval rates that low in place at the time the organisation needs urgently to build on a platform with the overall population. So it will probably happen. Which isnot a bad thing for the UK.
The more unpopular the EU is the better. Incompetent weird dodgy looking Southermers is probably the ideal profile from that angle. Barosso ticks a lot of the boxes only looks pretty stubborn, which is not ideal.
The guy looks completely crap in the eye of the UK public and similar countries as well which is probably just what Cameron needs on the PR side.
Barosso simply doesnot look the sharpest knife while he thinks otherwise. A guy like Rompuy (looks by far the best dealmaker of that bunch) will be much more difficult to negotiate with.

jon livesey said...

Sikorski is a perfect example of a point that people constantly miss about the EU.

Around 52% of all public investment in Poland comes from EU transfer payments, so of course a guy like Sikorski is a EU-enthusiast. He'd be nuts not to be.

But, rather hilariously, he wrote a column for the Guardian back in November, pointing out the 52% number, and concluded that the EU was "good value for money" for -wait for it - the UK.

There is something about free money that simply goes to people's heads. Make Sikorski a top EU official, and will be good fun to watch as he makes a gaffe a week.

So far, he has claimed that Poland would replace the UK as the Third power in the EU, that Poland is entitled to EU money to "right the wrong we suffered at Yalta", and that the UK is a defender of the CAP - a program actually pretty universally loathed in the UK.

Appointing Sikorski will be the best way to make people nostalgic for Ashton.

John McClane said...

I am now so getting a headache.

I used to think Open Europe was on the ball. Now it's just detail, detail, Sikorski, who owes how much to whom.

Maybe the EU is now funding you. As a Useful Idiot.

The EU is no longer fit for purpose. That much is obvious to millions. So Sikorski is a side issue.

You should blog about bigger issues than Sikorski. It might get you columnage in the Telegraph but it's a serious waste of my bandwidth.

John McClane said...


You also have nothing on on capital flight from the eurozone since Cuprus.

Rollo said...

The Poles are used to being colonies of a bungling super-power; they have swopped the USSR for the EUSSR.

Anonymous said...

Why are we taking the time to investigate which criminal will be added to the other EUSSR criminals in Brussels?

The EUSSR "Commission" has effectively staged a coup d'état in Europe.

We should be discussing ways to have them arrested for crimes against humanity.

Anonymous said...

John McClane:

Well said!

Open Europe is an EUSSR supporter posing as an EUSSR opponent.