At 7.21pm last Thursday, the editor of the EU Observer, Honor Mahoney, blogged thus: “There is a rumour flying around the summit. Two unknowns.
Surely not?” But it was true. Mahoney, who is very wise in the ways of the EU, could not believe that the obscure names of Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton were in the frame for the two top EU jobs. Her initial disbelief has since been shared by many commentators although the reaction from the world's capitals has been more diplomatic.

My viewpoint is that, from differing perspectives, both the large and small countries in the EU were right not to want “big-hitters” in these two jobs, bearing in mind that this is the first time the appointments have been made and that they are initially for a period of less than three years. This should be an exploratory period free of charisma and big initiatives.

Unfortunately there is so much room for misunderstanding about these jobs.
One columnist yesterday complained that at his first press conference Van Rompuy “blew his first big chance to set out his vision for his term at the helm”. It's not his role to have “visions” -- and certainly not only an hour after being appointed. The ideas will come mainly from the member states and it is the president's task to see that the formulation of policy is properly co-ordinated among all 27 members and thoroughly discussed before being approved. Boring? perhaps, but very necessary.


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