The proposed President of the European Council is very far from being “President of Europe” – either in terms of profile or power.
Whoever lands the job (and it’s highly unlikely to be Tony Blair) will have practically zero influence on anything, acting instead as little more than a moderator between the governments of the member states as they continue to run the EU show. And will be in office for just two and a half years – which is no time at all in EU terms (hell, it’s just taken more than a decade to get agreement on a treaty which doesn’t solve half the problems it was meant to…)
Meanwhile the rotating EU Presidency – the Presidency of the Council of the European Union – will continue as usual (currently Sweden, with Spain taking over on January 1st), ensuring that the President of the European Council can constantly be outshone by whoever holds the more established rotating presidency. Because the rotating presidency still has the ability to influence the EU’s focus for the six months that each member state holds it – whereas the President of the European Council will have *no* formal powers whatsoever, and remains hugely ill-defined.
And that’s before you note that the President of the European Council’s role, as vaguely as it has been described, also overlaps with that of the far better-established Presidency of the European Commission (currently Jose Manuel Barroso) and the EU High Representative (currently Javier Solana). A brand new two and a half year office versus two existing five-year offices? I know which ones I’m betting on to have the real power here.
In other words, it really doesn’t matter who gets the gig. It’s not important in the slightest. It’s a meaningless position.
I do get that it’s confusing to have a (proposed) President of the European Council AND a President of the Council of the European Union (not to mention the Council of Europe), but come on – the significance of this is being blown out of all proportion.
(Originally posted as a comment to this article over at the Guardian)