February 19, 2010
I have in previous blog posts, strongly disagreed with criticism of Baroness Ashton. The nomination of Joao Vale de Almeida to succeed John Bruton as EU ambassador in Washington is, however, worrying.
I believed that Hermann Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton were the right appointments but not necessarily for the right reason. She was right to choose her office to be in the Commission and not the Council, there being no neutral ground. My only worry was the influence of President Barroso and his apparent concern to protect and indeed advance his present position of authority.
The fear is that the appointment of a Portuguese official, formerly Barroso’s chef de cabinet smacks of patronage and inappropriate influence. With all due respect to Joao Vale de Almeida, there are better qualified individuals, inside and outside the Commission, for this very important job.
It sends a clear message as to the President’s intent to play an influential role in foreign affairs. Vale de Almeida’s close ties with Barroso suggest that he will be as much a ‘servant’ of Barroso than of Ashton. As the EEAS is not yet in operation, the President felt able to make the appointment without involving the Member States – a wrong approach confirming that the EU will be faced with debilitating turf wars, institutional rivalries and personal power plays.
What precedent does it set? Almeida is leading the Commission in the expert group advising Ashton on the formation of the External Service (EEAS). The quality of the new service is vitally important for the development of the High Representative’s role and the forging of a CFSP. This appointment is a continuation of the Commission’s unfortunate appointment policy. It could well discourage well qualified national civil servants from applying to join the EEAS, which must be a meritocracy.
It is essential that Ashton resists too much influence from Barrroso, that the latter concentrates on the many none-CFSP priorities and that Van Rompuy, Barroso and Ashton work together harmoniously and with their egos under compete controlAuthor : Stanley Crossick