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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Guest Post: Chris Patten for ‘EU Foreign Minister’?

A guest post from that rare beast, an openly pro-EU Tory – in this case Thomas Byrne of the blog Byrne Tofferings, who is keen to sound out the thoughts of a more international audience to his suggestion for the first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the successor to the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (currently Javier Solana):

Chris Patten has signalled his interest in the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy position, something I’m going to give my support to.

If you want to look at important conflicts that Britain has been involved with since the EU’s foundation – Falklands, Kosovo, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. the EU has actively or passively opposed every one, Chris Patten would be the perfect man for turning EU Foreign Policy into a force to be reckoned with.

Chris Patten was the first Governor who actually cared about trying to bring democracy to Hong Kong. Unlike most of his predecessor(s) who were ‘sinologists,’ which meant they just kowtowed to Peking, he actually stood up for Hong Kong.

Patten’s experience would be useful in the Balkans – Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Moldova – and Turkey, all of which are pushing for EU membership to a greater or lesser extent. Not to mention some of the Caucasian and Central Asian countries that are members of the Council of Europe, and could down the line become candidate countries – or the elephant in the European room that is Belarus, the last dictatorship on the continent.

In Chris Patten’s book (Not Quite The Diplomat) he suggests the Tories have saddled themselves with a Eurosceptic ideology for no good reason, something that I’d agree with, his Europhile sentiment and his experience within the commission make him the perfect man to slide into this role. Firstly ,because of his experience of EU institutions and dealings with each of the member states, but also when the Tories come into government they’ll be dealing with someone they can relate to, lending a plaster to the Eurosceptic position of some MEP’s like Daniel Hannan, and the grassroots and lead the Conservative party into a position within Europe that would silence those that claim the party are on the fringe.

5 Comments

  1. Interesting suggestion. Let me scribble down a response.

    For the pros:

    - Patten is from a centre-right party, which would reflect the dominance of the centre-right EPP in the European parliament.

    - He would, as you say, represent a more moderate side of the Conservative party than the Hannanites. A British High Rep might improve UK/EU relations.

    Cons:

    - Patten may be from a centre-right party, but that party is not part of the EPP. An EPP candidate would more accurately reflect the make-up of the parliament.

    - France and Germany might object to a British High-Rep because of the confrontational approach the Conservatives have been taking with Europe.

    - To your point about Patten turning EU foreign policy into a force to be reckoned with: Even the High Rep is going to have a limited role in shaping EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Foreign policy is still very much the domain of the individual member-states. The High Rep might have a limited agenda setting role, but not much else.

    - Would Cameron even welcome a British Conservative appointee? Would it not just further divide his party and give him an even bigger headache?

    Those might not be the best points – but they’re just a few off the top of my head.

  2. I think he’d be great for the job, but if the Spanish reports during the week have merit, it looks like the top job will com from the EPP with the High Rep being a socialist.

    The Miliband rumours may have merit, in which case surely it’ll be either Balkenende or Juncker as Council President. On the other hand, these rumours may be as off the mark as the Blair ones were.

  3. David Cameron, of course, does not want the UK to leave the European Union. He never has, and he never will, and it’s a shame he panders to Hannan and co I really worry about a chunk of the party fleeing to UKIP.

    I have come round the new grouping though, despite not wanting to leave the EPP, and it look’s as if we’re going to be working with them again soon. Assuming we stay in the ECR grouping though Patten being respected by the EPP would be great in smoothing over relations and allowing them to come together, something Cameron might find appealing.

    The Socialists might like him too if they took a look (Perhaps more so than Milliband) – his stance on Gaza especially, whereas his Russia stance would appeal more to the right.

    I havent really looked at the other European players sadly.

  4. I was agreeing with most of what he said until he made the silly mistake of taking a tory victory next year for granted. It’s different if everyone else thinks it, it sounds really bad coming from a Tory.

  5. I should have replaced it with ‘if’ eh? :)

    I didn’t mean to assume really, and of course Patten will get on with more than just our party.