Saturday, 9 October 2010

No British Voice in Crucial EU Meetings

No, this post isn't a caption competition. I want to highlight the behaviour of the Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who is the most highly paid female politician in the world.  She is also the European Commission vice-president representing Britain.

This week there was a crucial meeting in Brussels which debated the fate of the rebate and controversial plans to introduce European taxes.  Lady Ashton was missing.  She decided instead to attend a regional anti-piracy meeting at the Grand Baie in Mauritius instead.

Her absence meant that no one raised any objections to plans by Europe's budget commissioner to include proposals to end the rebate in the EU budget review which will go before politicians later this month.  She also missed a meeting about this subject last month and it means that she has failed to attend any of the Commission's meeting on an issue that has been identified as a crucial 'red line' for the Westminster government.  Both times her commission seat was filled by James Morrison, her British chief of staff, but he was not allowed to speak and could only observe proceedings.  It means that Britain's opposition has gone unrepresented.

If the rebate is scrapped, as the commission propose, the potential extra cost for the Treasury is £6 billion in the 2010 to 2015 period covered by the Government's controversial five-year spending review and austerity programme which George Osborne will reveal on 20 October.

What is David Cameron doing about this lack of British representation?  Nothing.  He seems quite happy to give this woman free reign.  Or could it be he wishes to give her enough rope to hang herself?  She's not getting all her own way in Europe though because the European Parliament has blocked allocation of nearly €20 million for staffing the new European External Action Service, (EEAS), Lady Ashton's current pet project.

Could Westminster's lack of comment be due to the fact that a backroom deal has been done to oust Lady Ashton and replace her with David Miliband?  Just a thought.

Somehow I think this blogger is furious at this development as she seldom resorts to expletives.


banned said...

What that meeting also discussed was the future introduction of EUwide taxes.
I expect that Ashton avoids such meetings because she is still embarrassed at having no mandate, no support from home, no experience and no talent, rightly prefering to spend her time hiding on exotic islands the other side of the planet.

Witterings from Witney said...

"Somehow I think this blogger is furious at this development as she seldom resorts to expletives." meant that I did not need to go to the link as "she seldom resorts to expletives" gave the source away! (I had previously read it anyway)

Sue must love that comment!

Apogee said...

Any person who takes the oath of allegance to to the EUSSR is by definition repudiating their own country FOR EVER. That used to be called being a traitor.
Unfortunately most politicians seem to fall under that definition in some form, but this woman seems worse than most.

subrosa said...

I perhaps should have emphasised that a bit more banned. We're all alone now and being run over by the EU steam roller.

subrosa said...

I know you had WfW - I followed you. :)

subrosa said...

Maybe not Apogee, after all she doesn't even have the guile to cover her tracks does she?

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

I was feeling quite calm on Sunday morning until I happened across this.

This woman is emblematic of the avalanche of execrable dunces of both sexes that have wheedled their way into positions of power in the last 20 years in the UK (and EU it has to be said)

If this stupid item had any sense at all, she would have walked after the election. However, like the cohorts of under performing apparatchicks that stuff our public bodies in a bloated mutual appreciation society - her sense of self importance is her shield, cultivated by those who surround her.

Another leech, I favour the folk remedies , but then I'm just being vindictive.

Informal said...

Your basic assumption seems to be wrong. Lady Ashton's job is not to represent Britain. National lobbying is done by other institutions more than enough and for example the Council is also the place where it is supposed to take place.

The Commission and therefore also Lady Ashton as Vice President of the Commission have to represent the Union's interests as a whole. Anti Piracy policies are one of her declared foreign policy focuses. Not taking part in such a key conference on this issue would have been in fact a problematic decision.

subrosa said...

Why walk when you're earning such money though Gordon?

subrosa said...

I'm quite happy to be corrected, but if it's not part of Lady Ashton's job then whose is it? All the MSM say she represents Britain in these situations.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

Even Ashton herself has been "self deprecating" about her own abilities... I recall correctly when she was appointed by bonkers Broon (as 4th choice?) she gushed at some length about her unsuitability for the job before grabbing the sinecure.? - a focus on anti piracy polcies? Heh.. I bet that's got them quaking in their flip flops in Mogadishu.

Sheesh - the woman is supposed to be the foreign representative of the world's 3rd,4th or 5th "power" - from where I'm sat she'd barely pass muster as a town councillor. A very grey career quangocrat sociologist who'se "good at talking to people"

An embarassment

Informal said...


According to the treaties the Commission's job is to act in the greater European interest and so is also the job of the individual commissioners. After all, someone should think in the greater terms as well.

In the regular case these proposals then are dealt with by the Council (where the national governments meet) and the European Parliament. Of these two the Council is clearly the predestined place for national lobbying.

Long answer short. The British Government in the Council will have plenty of chance to bring in the British position. It is their job together with the 26 others to hammer out a compromise which can be approved by the Council and is acceptable to the European Parliament as well.

IMO Ashton is sort of a disappointment but quite some of the bad coverage, like this specific case as well, is pretty unjust and often not based on her performance but on internal rivalries or because someone does not like the EU doing foreign policy (or attempting it at least) in first place.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

Cath, doll, just do yourself a favour - nobody'll hold it against you, honest. Resign.

It just isn't going to get any better, golden handcuffs are still handcuffs. Console yourself with the pension and occasional bits in the Guardian, assuming it's still there.

btw, is that wikipedia stuff about the Dalek true?

subrosa said...

I remember her saying something about her abilities too Gordon. She should just go but she won't of course. It's the money.

subrosa said..., who should have represented Britain at these meetings then?

Being Scottish I'm very aware that we don't have any say in fishing and various other policies which affect Scotland. That's why it's important to me that our voice is always heard at council meetings.

subrosa said...

Aye, resign and make way for David Miliband. Seems the French are organising it anyway Gordon.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

eeek! banana man. A piece of work and no mistake, the buffoon tag suits his purposes as it masks his unhealthy ambition and towering conceit. "Groomed for power" - yeah... right.

I think the story of Millipede senior's visit to India and his ejection from the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the subsequent refusal of The Dark Lord's entry to India (NO, you can't come out of the plane, gas it up and piss off!)to wag a finger at the uppity natives for their treatment of the boy wonder needs to be repeated regularly.

Why not keep it in the Coagulation and appoint Paddy Ashdown?

subrosa said...

Gordon, wasn't he given 'lessons' at taxpayers expense after that gaffe? I remember 'lessons' in something.

Paddy doesn't want it I read somewhere.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

I think the point about the job is nobody in their right mind wants it, because they can see it for what it is.

I hadn't heard about Millipede senior being sent for detention. Although the image of a grimacing oik in uniform / short trousers /tie and school cap askew clutching his curly-wirly being led by the ear (now that it apparently is going to be allowed again) doesn't jar in the slightest.

10,000 lines

"I will not manhandle senior citizens and I will refrain from ignoring what prime ministers of foreign countries say and talking patronising drivel all over them"

Informal said...


The meeting Ashton missed was a Commission meeting not a Council meeting. I doubt very much that this Uk rebate issue belongs to the Foreign relations council that Ashton leads according to the treaties. In the other councils her office has little role to play. Thats not much of a surprise, as her job is about foreign policy, EU foreign policy not the EU budget as such.

Commission meetings work a bit different than you may expect. Its not like 27 national representants are horse trading for national particular interests. There are 27 Commissioners each of them responsible for their own portfolio. All of them have a vote (one vote), a simple majority of the Commissioners is sufficient for decisions to be made. This alone makes national lobbying pretty meaningless. But the point of the Commission is as I have said already before to see the greater picture of European interests. They represent the EU not the countries they come from. (Who else would do so?)

Back to the Council. The Council has a very different role compared to the Commission. It is all about national horse trading. If Commission proposals are unacceptable for the member states they are shot down in the Council. The Council of Ministers has to give its ok to the budget. There the British Chancelor together with the other fellow finance ministers of the other member states will represent the own national interests. Your foreign minister and your Prime Minister may also have a role to play. The budget debate is in a very early phase yet. But rest asured the horse trading in the Council is definitely going to come, rather sooner than later.

subrosa said...

It does carry an attractive salary though Gordon.

subrosa said..., who then should have been there to speak for Britain's interests? According to the press the person representing Britain was unable to speak. That's not good enough.

What is the greater picture of European interests? All I see is self interest on behalf of individuals. Britain's interests seem secondary.

Informal said...


Maybe I have to show first what a greater European interest could be compared to national interests.

As you may know the EU supports construction and improvement of traffic infrastructure across Europe. The aim is to improve the connection between the traditionally nationally focused transport networks. Which if done well massively improves the conduction of intra European trade. The national interest may say project X should be supported, as goes right through the own state and the money would end up in the national pocket. Another member state might think the same of project Y. All national interests together might come to a result like, "if you get Y, we get X". Even if both X and Y are only of mediocre importance for linking up Europe. The greater European interest would be in contrast to look at Europe as a whole and analyze from which project most people and companies would profit and what would help the economies and the trade of the entire continent the most.

Both perspectives, the national and the European have their justification and their value but they are not the same. In the EU both perspectives are important and a compromise will be made between both.

Its pretty clear who lobbies for the national perspective. The national governments in the Council which can amend or veto for example all parts of the budget but also pieces of legislation. But who lobbies for the European perspective? It's the Commission, it is doing so by design and thats why it is forbidden for Commissioners to lobby for a single member state rather for their portfolio (like also national ministers rather lobby for their portfolio, eg education or defense or finances..., than the region they come from). The EU is not a state, thats why the Commission has to engage with the Council than and find together with the Council and also the EP a compromise between both perspectives that the member states find acceptable. But as I have said, national lobbying is given plenty of space anyway.

If the European perspective would not even be formulated in the Commission by just seeing the national perspectives there as well, the EU would be run even substantially more inefficient than it already is.

subrosa said..., thank you for taking so much trouble to explain how you see the EU. My difficulty is I can't see it from that perspective, possibly because I see more of the negatives rather than the positives. Of course one of the negatives is the great waste of money by those in power and also the fact that some are not elected by the people.

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