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 golden aspirations. Still, given the rapid political transformations of the regional and global systems, the stakes for Europe are higher than ever. This applies not only to progress within specific negotiations and policy areas. It also applies more generally to the need for a genuine and holistic vision about what the EU should aim for as an international actor and how it should achieve it. For a Union lacking a clear global purpose, creating such a vision might be as good as making gold.
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