Blog AnalysisEuropean policyEEAS High Representative

A good choice as High Representative?

The "woman in blue" pays tribute to the various speakers on the floods in the Balkans (credit: European Commission)
The “woman in blue” pays tribute to the various speakers on the floods in the Balkans (credit: European Commission)

(BRUSSELS2) The choice of the next High Representative will be decisive for the future of European foreign policy. After the “Catherine Ashton” period – which was not marked by the disaster predicted but was not the brilliance hoped for and necessary either – any error would be detrimental.

At a time when the world is more shaken than ever, and European states weakened by years of economic and political crisis, Europe has no room for error. We will have to choose a personality who will not take two and a half years to understand European mechanics, to understand certain key elements of foreign policy and whose address book is up to date.

Let us not fall into the waltz of pretenders, quoted or “quotable”. Many are interested, few have all the qualities. If there was a choice, it could be Kristalina Georgieva. We had very early put it, at B2, in the list of possible or probable. Today, his name is mentioned more and more often by some political leaders or in the media. Well Named. Quite simply, because it meets most of the criteria.

Kristalina Georgieva has the advantage of being modest in her approach but determined. This is the first quality of a High Representative. Contrary to what some observers often think, we do not need a “loud mouth” at the head of European diplomacy. But someone who knows his files, does not break the ego (sometimes a little excessive of some personalities around the ministers' table), knows how to see them through to the end by using all the finesse of negotiation.

His previous experience at the international level – at the World Bank – taught him a certain rigor and that behind words, there are figures, behind diplomacy there is the economy. In her European post, as Commissioner responsible for Humanitarian Aid, Civil Protection and Crisis Response, she learned that forceful action is not enough but that humanitarian aid without a minimum of security is not enough. neither.

She does not have an aversion to European defense policy (PeSDC). Georgieva simply knows its limits. She thus staunchly defended the EUFOR RCA operation, considering it totally necessary. She was not at all keen (an understatement) for the EUFOR Libya operation which mixed military and humanitarian aid.

Operational experience

She thus has the advantage of arriving with a “good” up-to-date address book… In this portfolio, she has traveled the world and its crisis zones (Balkans, Jordan, Lebanon, Philippines, CAR, Sudan, Coast ivory…). This allowed him to know a number of political leaders in several countries around the world — leaders but also opponents of civil society. Which gives him a surface knowledge of different notable countries. She has been particularly involved in the Central African issue, traveling to Bangui several times in recent months, as well as on the Syrian issue, and participating in several donor conferences.

His 5 years as European Commissioner also led him to come into contact with legislative and community mechanics, both in the Commission and in Parliament. She had to defend issues that were not a foregone conclusion, such as the strengthening of the European civil protection mechanism. Knowing how to negotiate on details, not giving up on the essentials.

Having regularly followed her journey – B2 has carried out several interviews with her – we can see that she has a clear mind. Ask her you will see, she will tell you her rule of three: “there are three main elements” is her favorite phrase. This has the merit of clarifying the situation. She will never avoid certain questions. But don't try to make her deviate from what she wants to tell you, or make her say what she doesn't want to tell you, you won't succeed.

A point of balance

Coming from a middle country, from the east of Europe, located on the edge of the Black Sea, at the confluence of the Mediterranean and the East, it can be the syncretism of what European policy should be, turned both towards the South and the East, without forgetting the more distant horizons. As a woman, she would also complete the team, currently not too masculine, at the European Commission.

It is not specifically politically marked even if it is more related to the Christian-democratic camp than the social-democratic one. Which did not prevent him from establishing excellent links, on the right and on the left and in several member states, in Berlin and Paris, as well as in Madrid or Rome.

She speaks English perfectly (which is not the case for everyone), German and Russian (which is rare) and kept her promise to learn French (two things that are becoming rare, keeping your promise and speaking French :-)).

Undeniable point, it is almost impossible to find a person responsible, an observer who will say anything bad about it. Everyone, on the contrary, salutes what is considered one of the “successes” of the Barroso II commission (*). In a ruthless environment, where having a harsh, even petty tooth is a tradition, a national sport, it is rather notable...

Among the contenders in the running, we see that the Bulgarian leaves with some (many) advantages. And above all one to my taste. It is immediately operational. and will thus be able to “smoothly” ensure the transition of files with Catherine Asthon. A quality that no declared suitor has, for the moment.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) With in particular the Romanian Dacian Ciolos, the French Michel Barnier, the Swedish Cecilia Malmström, at the head of the pack.

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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