Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Calling Europe

When Henry Kissinger served as President Nixon's top foreign policy aide, first as a White House staffer, and later also as secretary of state, he is said to have complained that he didn't know whom he should call if he wanted to call Europe. In other words, he knew who his interlocutors were in places such as Russia and China but, during a period when Europe (meaning western Europe, at that time) was increasingly considered a single entity, it had no single leader.

That might be changing soon.

The European Union (EU) seems to be near the end of the long and winding path it has taken to adopt a new constitution. That document, called the Lisbon Treaty, may soon achieve the necessary unanimous ratification by the EU's 27 member states. This New York Times report describes one major implication of ratification: the appointment of a president of the EU.

The name most often mentioned as a candidate for that job is that of Tony Blair, the ex-prime minister of the U.K. Since leaving office in 2007, Blair seems to have taken on many new roles. In addition to becoming chief Middle East negotiator for the Quartet (US, Russia, EU and UN), he has taken advisory roles with certain business firms, and is involved in academia.

Blair has the same problem (or opportunity, if one sees it that way) as his friend Bill Clinton. They both became heads of government at a young age, and then faced retirement at a relatively young age. Now, each of them is taking on several activities to make 1) a difference in the world, and 2) money.

Will Blair become the one whom heads of government and foreign ministers from other continents call when they want to talk to Europe? As of right now, that's a firm maybe.

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