European Council on Foreign Relations

HighRepCasting: Successful alchemist needed

This piece is part of a series on the casting of a new High Representative. For the full collection, click here. Read Josef Janning's introductory piece here

19th century alchemists had the unenviable task of creating gold out of a mix of less precious ingredients. The new High Representative for European Foreign and Security policy will be tasked with forging coherent and common foreign policy out of conflicting national interests and diverging strategic cultures. And while her/his predecessors had acceptable excuses for lack of results (Solana lacked an effective treaty and Ashton lacked a functioning institution) there is less room today for excuses.

The candidate needs to be able to take the blame for any kind of setbacks that the member states are responsible for, while graciously sharing possible triumphs with the national foreign ministers, who often harbor their own

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Europe’s High Representative: In 4 Words

This piece is part of a series on the casting of a new High Representative. For the full collection, click here. Read Josef Janning's introductory piece here.

Communicative - the first hurdle for a high rep is to sense what member states are able to live with and sell initiatives

Strategic– just because there are no battleships and tanks at his/her disposal doesn’t mean the High Rep can be a softie

Experienced- you don’t get the top EU diplomatic job without a long strong foreign policy and government CV

Daring- the only way to fake EU foreign policy is to take the initiative

Forget the Spitzenkandidaten, welcome to the bazaar

Campaign rhetoric had it that the proclamation of “Spitzenkandidaten”, front-runners for the position of President of the European Commission, would end the hitherto opaque process of selecting the EU’s top executive post. In light of the results, however, the scenario for the next weeks appears like another metamorphosis of bargaining EU-style, the outcome of which will likely be crushing the expectations that the campaign created.

As a matter of fact, the next European Parliament will bring about a strong majority only as a result of grand coalition building. Neither one of the two major party families, the Conservatives (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D) could bring together a majority against the other by joining up with the mainstream smaller factions of the Liberals and the Greens. Together, though, they could secure enough votes for a candidate, if they could agree on who it

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Europe needs a new grand bargain

The crisis has fundamentally transformed the economic and political landscape. Europe has been divided between creditors and debtors, also between euro countries and the rest. Divisions run deep within countries as well, as inequalities rise further and there is a growing disconnect between politics and society. The austerity forced upon debtor countries has had devastating effects: they have lost sizeable chunks of their income and unemployment has skyrocketed, especially among the young, offering the chilling prospect of a lost generation. Admittedly, those countries had lived on borrowed time and money for too long.

Some people believe or hope that the worst is now over. Markets are getting euphoric once again, countries are beginning to emerge out of painful adjustment programmes and economic recovery is getting stronger. Others, however, are less optimistic. They remind us

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In Europe we mistrust

chart data trust in the EU - data in the text belowSource: author's elaboration based on Eurobarometer data


This month’s European elections are different, but not in the way that the EU’s official campaign would have us believe. From 22 to 25 May approximately 390 million citizens will vote in the midst of the worst crisis in EU’s history with trust in the EU at an all-time low (as the graph above illustrates).

Since the onset of the crisis, mistrust in European institutions has spread like a virus, explained over a year ago in ECFR’s policy memo “The continent-wide rise of Euroscepticism”. A common explanation for this trend lies in claims that declining trust in the EU merely reflects lower levels of trust in member state governments. This claim however, is not entirely coherent. Whilst trust in national institutions amongst key member states in the South is indeed low, this is not true of all states. Mistrust in the EU,

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