How to avoid a democratic Europe

Today’s EU appointments are a catastrophe for anybody counting on the Lisbon treaty to give Europe a public face. The only chance to kick-start a pan-European public sphere was to populate the top posts with figures fit to be loved, hated, or at least recognized across Europe. Instead, as foreign minister, we get [Baroness Ashton](
Baroness Ashton has no obvious expertise in foreign affairs before last year. Nor has she ever won an election. “Even friends are stunned that someone so low key could have been elevated to such a high profile job“, according to the [[FT](]
She’s an apparatchik. Worse, she’s an apparatchik who doesn’t even know Brussels. At least not until last year, when she was shuffled in as Trade Commissioner so that Mandelson could sneak home and salvage the Labour party. Before then, she was a backroom figure in the UK, working her way around charities, quangos and political posts. All worthy, but hardly preparation for Europe and the world.
How did she end up at the job? Was it Machiavellian manouvering by Britain? Talk up Blair, drop him at the last minute, and bounce Ashton in on the resulting pan-European wave of relief? Somehow I don’t think so; I just can’t see why they would go to all that trouble for somebody so unpromising. Instead, I’ll have to rely on the standard explanation for how every EU appointment happens: she was suggested at the last minute, and nobody knew enough about her to object.
Ban Ki-Moon was the last appointment to disappoint me this badly, and for similar reasons. Without a charismatic leader, the UN faded further into the shadows, and is losing influence month by month. Ban was chosen in part by people who wanted to keep the UN weak; what excuse is there for the EU ministers? Intentionally or not, they’ve just placed a brown paper back over the head of Europe.

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