La Treizième Étoile: 03/10/10 - 10/10/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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David Miliband: Will Labour’s loss be Europe’s gain?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010
When David Miliband’s younger brother Ed was announced as the new leader of the Labour party to a sound of gasps (myself included) the attention immediately shifted to where his future would lie. Would he declare himself a candidate for the shadow cabinet? Would he step down from front-bench politics? Would he take a big international job? Perhaps inevitably (and correctly so in my opinion) he announced he would not run for shadow cabinet and so serve under his younger brother as a backbench MP.

But I hoped it would be the latter option and that he would be nominated by the coalition government to replace the under-fire Baroness Ashton in Brussels as the UK’s member of the European Commission. While I have nothing against Baroness Ashton and think much of the criticism by the French is unfair, I have argued here, here and here in favour of Miliband Snr. taking up this important role. BBC Radio 4's Robin Lustig also had this 'hunch'.

So you can imagine my delight when an article appeared in the News of the World the next day under the headline “We want EU, Dave” that read “David Miliband is poised for a sensational return to frontline politics with a top job at the European Union.

According to the article, senior sources in Paris and Brussels have told the News of the World that European leaders want Mr Miliband to be the new Foreign Policy head – a position he was a favourite to get but decline to put his hat forward in order to run for Labour leader.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reportedly told Baroness Ashton he wants her to "move on" and "make room for David", and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently also backs the move.

The article then reports that Mr Sarkozy called Mr Miliband after he lost the leadership race last Saturday and told him: "your career is far from over. I will see you in a major role again” and quotes a “senior source from the European Commission” saying that Baroness Ashton was a “compromise candidate” because “Tony Blair was too toxic and David Miliband was not available”.

But it is the coalition government, who at the end of the day are tasked with nominating the UK’s Commissioner and you could argue it would be in their benefit to “dispatch” a rival off to Brussels.

However, the Foreign Secretary William Hague hit out at such suggestions in an interview with the Financial Times on Sunday prior to the start of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Mr Hague said he will not nominate David Miliband for the post of EU foreign minister, nor any other international job in the foreseeable future:

I’ve no personal quarrel with him,” he said. “Cathy Ashton is doing a really fantastic job and won’t be going anywhere. She has the government’s full support.

So while question marks still remain over David Miliband’s next step, it unfortunately seems as though it will not involve any move to Brussels in the immediate future.

Political turmoil to remain in Belgium as coalition talks collapse

N-VA leader Bart de WeverWhen Britain’s politicians were forced into negotiating the first coalition government since World War II after inconclusive general election results, there were some who said the five 'hectic' days the country was ‘in limbo’ while negotiating took place was too long.

I imagine a glance across to the continent to Belgium would have these same people torn between laughter and tears of despair as it is now four months since the Belgian elections and the country still has no government, and this period of instability is set to continue with the news that coalition talks have again broken down.

The Flemish separatist party, N-VA, the overall winner at the polls, revealed they pulled out of discussions yesterday and said they should start again from scratch.

The party’s leader Bart de Wever, pictured above, told reporters: “we’ve been regressing the last few weeks instead of progressing… that’s why I’m not afraid to say that this story, according to us, has ended.

The party is demanding more power and greater fiscal autonomy for their region of Flanders and have placed the blame for the collapse squarely at the door of the francophones, something which they naturally dispute. The Socialists, the centre-right (CDH) and the Greens (Ecolo) have both venomously attacked the decision calling it "irresponsible" and "damaging to all the citizens of our country."

The collapse is another setback for Belgium and is considerably embarrassing since it currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency until January 2011.

Many in Belgium and around Europe hope an agreement to form a coalition can be found soon although it is worth remembering that it took almost nine months for such an agreement last time around...

For a rather good visual explanation of Belgium’s political troubles, I urge you to watch the video below by author Marcel Sel and Jerome de Gerlache entitled 'Do you want to know more about Belgium?':

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.