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Daily View: A new European president

Clare Spencer | 09:41 UK time, Friday, 20 November 2009

New President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and Europe's new High Representative For Foreign Affairs Baroness Cathy AshtonThe appointment of the first President of the European Council has drawn comment on what this means for Europe.

The Guardian editorial is negative towards the choice of "unknown" Herman Van Rompuy as the first president of the council of Europe:

"Talk of President Blair has bitten the dust, but so too has any hope of Europe forcing the planet to pay it fresh attention."

The Economist blog Charlemagne's Notebook agrees with the Guardian, saying the decision shows the EU leaders want an inward-looking fortress, not a global power. The blog says the decision was made to avoid exposing a divided Europe:

"I fear the two candidates chosen tonight are an example of the lowest common denominator effect. Mr Van Rompuy had not had time to offend any of his fellow leaders. Lady Ashton achieved the job by default (though her supporters insist that she has always been underestimated, and triumphs every time.)"

With the same headline as the Guardian's front page, the Daily Mail call it an EU stitch-up and says the whole process of selection a president of the European Council is a slap in the face for the fundamental principles of British democracy. The paper is not much warmer towards Van Rompuy:

"The one certainty about him is that he is a rabid federalist, who believes in rapidly transferring more powers to Brussels - including the right for the EU to impose direct taxes - and will use his new job to further these aims."

Conversely the broadly pro-EU blogger James Clive-Matthews says in his blog Nosemonkey that this appointment is yet more proof that the real power in the EU lies with the governments of the member states. He reasons:

"For it is the heads of the member state governments who have agreed this pair of no-marks - and the only explanation I can think of is that the governments of the member states want these two new roles to be as powerless and unimportant as possible, so as to maintain their own power."

Tony Barber at the Financial Times' Brussels blog seems to be the only commentator, Eurocentric or sceptic, who is willing to give a compliment to Van Rompuy, but still leaves one question:

"Intelligent, civilised, modest, with a calming sense of humour - a consensus-builder and an organiser. Good qualities. But has the EU been ambitious enough?"

Guardian | European Union: Fading presidential ambitions
Charlemagne's notebook | Economist | What the EU's new leaders tell us about Europe
Daily Mail | EU stitch-up is a slap in the face for voters
James Clive-Matthews | Nosemonkey | The EU's new 'president' and 'foreign minister'
Tony Barber | FT Brussels blog | Big enough for the big EU jobs?
Alex Barker | FT Westminster Blog | Cathy Ashton: 10 things to know
Gavin Hewitt | BBC | EU opts for Belgian leader

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