The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of the year demands the appointment of a President of the European Council for a period of two and a half years and this is a source of passion and public interest.
27 Heads of State and Government will choose the person who will be responsible for preparing, moderating their meetings and reporting on the work they have done.
There are several possibilities open to them.
They could choose someone with an extremely high media profile to embody Europe in the international arena on the same footing as the most famous of them.
But we can see that this option does not really fill them with enthusiasm and that it is difficult to find someone who forms a consensus.
They may choose someone who is familiar with the European environment, but who is unknown to anyone outside of Brussels. This would be a pity.
Of course the president will not be the President of Europe but the president of the European Council only – this institution has now been acknowledged in the Treaties; it brings the leaders of the 27 Member States together at least four times per year, but has no legislative power and provides the strategic guidelines and political impetus which the Union needs.
He or she will have to embody the political will of the States in the face of the other common institutions, ie the European Parliament, the Commission and also the public.
It is a difficult, highly political task for which the “man or woman in a million” has to be found. The Heads of State struggle to admit having a leader! Will they at least accept the idea of a symbol?
It seems vital for the person in question to be irreproachable who has little to do with low politics, but who is of high moral demand and who has great intellectual qualities.
He or she must inspire pride and know how to show deference, and yet demonstrate rare skills in facilitating the firmest political decisions to be taken. Uniting rather than dividing, having no other programme but helping the Union’s leaders give strong voice to Europe in the world and at the same time represent our values – this is what is expected as head of the European Council.
Appointing a woman has been discussed: this would be a real symbol since it is true that the respect of Human Rights which are abused on all continents start with women’s rights – of which Europe is the champion.
We hope for a person from a small country who would represent European culture thanks to his or her history, knowledge of languages, beliefs and experience. He or she has to be able to speak with authority before the US Congress, the Russian Douma and the Chinese People’s Assembly! …
As we celebrate reunification we hope that the Union will be audacious enough to turn towards its most recent members who have a number of personalities of major stature amongst their ranks.
In short we would like this appointment to be a political choice and not another diplomatic one which would really disappoint Europeans and not add much to the running of the Union.