Tony for President? But...but...but he's British.

Lethal Weapon
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There’s a scene in the second of the Lethal Weapon series of films where Murtagh (Danny Glover) and Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) create a fracas in the apartheid era South African consulate in Los Angeles so that Riggs (Mel Gibson) can gain entrance through another door. Joe Pesci asks the South African consular official to talk his friend (Danny Glover) out of  emigrating to the most beautiful country in the world. The official is confused. That is until Murtagh is introduced; at which point the official utters in disbelief “But…but…you’re blek”. Mayhem ensues as Glover’s character starts protesting against apartheid.

I was reminded of this scene this morning upon reading an Observer piece on whether Tony Blair should become the first President of the European Council. There are some good arguments in the article both for and against. (For the record I am for). However, it was the only non-British European quoted in the piece that caught my attention.   Pier Luigi Bersani, an Italian opposition politician, states the following against Tony Blair’s candidature:

“Tony Blair is a personality with a formidable reputation on the European stage who has always enjoyed a very good relationship with Italy. I have always admired him, despite differences over the war in Iraq. However, when it comes to considering him as a candidate for the European presidency, it needs to be underlined that the UK is not in the Schengen Agreement, nor part of the Euro zone and is therefore not central to the process of European integration. Blair is a splendid man but possibly not the right candidate for this job.”

For Bersani at least it would appear that Tony’s actions in the Iraq war, or indeed his stature as an undeniable political heavyweight, matter not a jot. Much as we all might want to debate them. To state the obvious, he’s simply the wrong nationality. It’s a bit like a Danny Glover’s character wanting to emigrate to 1980s South Africa. Until our relationship with Europe is sorted out once and for all, Britain is unlikely to get the top job.

Which leaves us with one question. While Tony is causing all this mayhem, who and where is Riggs?


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Posts I’ve enjoyed on this blog « Public Affairs 2.0
April 09, 2010 | 1:07 PM

[...] Parallels between a Mel Gibson film and the President of the European Council [...]

November 04, 2009 | 3:22 AM

Perhaps a Brit getting a top job may resolve the country's relationship with Europe. Namely, having one of their fellow countrymen in an important role would see a new focus on EU affairs and finally open the British publics eyes to a little more of just what the EU is about aside from the typical catchphrases of 'destroying national sovereignty' and 'butter mountains'.

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October 27, 2009 | 3:01 AM

[...] Tony for President? But…but…but he’s British. from Public Affairs 2.0 by fhbrussels [...]

October 26, 2009 | 1:31 PM

If Blair were disqualified merely on the basis of his carrying a British passport, then I agree it would be unfair discrimination. However, the fact that he was the British PM and thus in charge of the UK's euroskeptic policies for ten years might have some relevance in assessing his candidacy.

Evil European
October 25, 2009 | 6:57 PM

I'm totally against Blair being EU president but the reason listed is just stupid. UK is a full member of the EU, an active member, and not as awarked as the press would have us belive. Based on the logic outlined above, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, and a host of eastern European member states also can't have it's citizens as EU president.

October 25, 2009 | 7:08 PM

Evil European, thanks for your comment. I take your point that there are others who are not part of Schengen and/or the Eurozone and following the logic of Bersani's comment, yes, candidates from these states should also be excluded. It is also true that in terms of the legislative process our MEPs are generally informed and engaged and our civil service admired by many other Member States for its contribution in Council. However, I think the point is more in terms of the British mentality in its relationship with Europe. As a country, rightly or wrongly, we may be perceived as only being part of the club only because we have to instead because of the positive benefits integration brings us as a country. Yes, others pursue their national interests - and can be obstructive in doing so - but they always manage to cloak them in the European interest. For me Bersani's comments are simply a reflection of what other Europeans are thinking but not saying.