I have an endearing fondness for all things EU--even (or perhaps more especially) their tendency to name rather anonymous Eurocrats to important posts. This, of course, leaves it up to the likes of yours truly to figure out this Euro Trivial Pursuit (attention Hasbro: here's a free gift idea from the IPE Zone). Anyway, with the selection of Baroness Catherine Ashton to become the first High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (what a mouthful), a vacancy has emerged as to who would be her successor at the Trade desk. Ashton was certainly a mystery to me at first; I fumblingly described her as the EuroPalin. At least us inhabitants of the Empire knew who Peter Mandelson was when he was temporarily exiled to Brussels--not that others are exceedingly happy about his return.
So, who exactly is Karel De Gucht? More importantly, what qualifications does he have for pushing through long-stalled multilateral trade deals and other minutiae involving such things as zeroing and sanitary and phytosanitary standards? The EU site has yet to reflect his accession to his new post as of the start of December; there's also a brief bio that at least suggests his career path is not totally alien to what he'll be doing. (Yes, he;s a lawyer by training.) Mr. De Gucht was foreign minister and deputy PM in Herman Von Rompuy's government before the latter assumed his new post as the first European Council president. As you can see, our man was more recently appointed the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. The merry-go-round in Brussels thus ends with his selection as the new trade commissioner.
Is he up to the job? We'll see; the USTR has extended his welcome but there's still very little on what he'll be doing. As usual, stay tuned.