♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Europe at 10/26/2009 05:16:00 PMRumours that Tony Blair wants to become the first European Union President have now taken shape as the newswires report that Foreign Secretary David Miliband is keen to raise the former PM's case in Luxembourg, saying that Europe needs a strong political counterweight in international politics to the US and China. With EU bigwigs pressing hard and offering sweeteners so the recalcitrant Euroskeptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus signs on to the Lisbon Treaty, this issue is beginning to be earnestly debated.
However, it is also noted that the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) are doggedly determined not to see Blair assume this post despite obviously being the candidate with the best international name recognition. It is no secret that the United Kingdom has been not been a team player on matters of European integration since the time of Margaret Thatcher, the grandma of all British Euroskeptics. From asking for rebates on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to engaging in Mortal Kombat with the continent's leaders, the EU has several grievances with how the UK has treated its presence in the EU--literally neither here nor there.
While it is certainly the UK's right to exist on the periphery of EU membership, this status certainly doesn't merit it placing an EU president. The Benelux countries are right in pointing out that the UK has neither adopted the euro nor joined the Schengen visa area--two of the principal European instruments for integrating economic and immigration policy. More importantly, Blair has not made any significant moves to ensure British adopts either of the two. Recall how he shunted off the question of joining the eurozone to then-Chancellor Gordon Brown of "five tests" fame. As for joining Schengen, forget about it.
As an economic migrant in the UK, I am annoyed by both these oversights. Not only am I being paid in play money (the British pound) when I could have been earning real money (euros), but I also cannot freely travel in Continental Europe with a British visa. Benelux is damn right to say no to Blair. While the anti-war set has its own objections, mine are based on less esoteric grounds. If the UK doesn't want to be a full member of Europe, then one of its own should not be allowed to become the EU president, period.