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Blog AnalysisEEAS High Representative

A remarkable and noticed presence. How long will the “Mogherini” electric battery last?

F. Mogherini and R. Vejunis in Riga, at the entrance to the meeting (Credit: EC / Latvian EU President)
F. Mogherini and R. Vejunis in Riga, at the entrance to the meeting (Credit: EC / Latvian EU President)

(BRUSSELS2) It can be noted that Federica Mogherini made a point of opening personally, this Wednesday (18 February) the informal meeting of the Ministers of Defense of the European Union in Riga. The first informal meeting she has chaired since taking office as High Representative. She promised it, she did it. Even if this presidency was above all symbolic. A good half hour spent welcoming, shaking each other's handshakes, and taking the welcome photo. And the presidency of the first working meeting (devoted to the next European summit. The agenda had also been shaken up a bit for that (by interchanging the working sessions). And, then, the High Representative of the EU had to have the meeting, for a good reason: the Italian was to attend the meeting convened in Wahington by the White House on the fight against terrorism and to discuss with several of the people present on the spot the delicate question of Libya, notably the Egyptian Foreign Minister (Sameh Shoukri) and his Emirati counterpart (Anwar Gargash).

A mark of interest and recognition

This presence, despite a busy schedule, contrasts, incontestably, with the attitude of his predecessor, Catherine Ashton, who had always shunned this type of meeting. And the effort was welcomed by all the ministers or ambassadors participating in the meeting. It is not only a mark of respect for the ministers, even if not all of them made the trip (*), but also the mark of an interest in defense issues. It is also important within the European system, for the teams of the European Diplomatic Service or crisis management to know that the work carried out every day "goes up" and can drive decisions. It is a notion of internal dynamics that had too often been forgotten in recent years, so as not to be noticed.

Busy agenda and thousands of km at stake

The High Representative is everywhere today, jumping from a plane, from Brussels to Washington, via Munich, Tunis (Friday), Madrid (Monday), Lisbon (Tuesday) and Riga (Wednesday). She receives with a vengeance: the Palestinian Abbas, the American Biden, the Serbian and Kosovar prime ministers, etc. For an overview look at the agenda of the last days, here, that's quite impressive. " Federica Mogherini immediately took to the field, whether with the press or in the European Parliament. In a few weeks, she has traveled several tens of thousands of km. testifies a diplomat who follows her closely. Catherine Ashton was less overactive even though she had " a real talent for being listened to. All the interlocutors, including the most experienced, like the Russian Lavrov who could sometimes be brutal, listened to him”.

A superwoman?

For his firstMogherini100Days@SE150209 hundred days, the current High Representative is therefore rather proud of the results drawn up by her teams: 93 high-level meetings, 31 European institutional meetings (8 at the Commission as well as 5 meetings with the commissioners; 11 Councils including 1 (2) Councils meetings, 4 Foreign Affairs Council meetings, 6 others), 5 (7) visits to EU countries and 10 (11) outside the EU... Needless to say, with such a job, he little time left for his family back in Rome. Federica Mogherini tries to spare at least part of her weekends to spend them with her children who are still young (4 years old and 10 years old).

Energy... for how much longer

The question that arises is how long it will last. " There is a lot of energy in her. She works days, weekends says a European diplomat. But is it not to the detriment of the substance can we wonder? Effectively, " it really can't last. And that seems a bit to the detriment of the fund. Chairing an informal meeting is symbolic. But most of an informal meeting does not take place in a working session, but outside a session, bilaterally, in the evening, in the morning at breakfast taken together at the hotel or around coffee in a more discreet room. This is where ties are forged, where ideas can flow, and policies are agreed or problems are resolved. There is little impression that the High Representative is trying, like this "flyer", written for these 100 days, to align the records. Which has physical effects.

Fatigue is felt

Over the months, we were able to see Federica Mogherini, certainly still smiling, but tired, more mechanical in her expressions. She still seems as passionate about her duties but has much less time to share it. The High Representative thus makes shorter and shorter appearances in front of the press, to deliver a message that is certainly clear and precise, but which deserves much more explanation. Because there is not a single crisis in the world (Ukraine) and a certain number of subjects deserve more than the few lines - already prepared - to serve as a "statement" that any good politician knows how to prepare and serve the press. She “reads the papers a lot » that the services prepare for him. But she seems listen " a little less. The shell that threatens all political leaders is closing.

The danger of the shell

This is what lies in wait for all modern politicians, comments an old veteran of European diplomacy. " The man, the woman politician no longer has time to think. He runs from place to place. The major problem of a politician is his agenda. A phenomenon further aggravated by the immediacy of information (twitter, etc.) which requires an immediate reply. "People like Kohl, Delors were ready to shut themselves up with a few collaborators to reflect on the future of the large market, the cost of non-Europe". This allowed them to give the impression not to suffer but to master the events ". A statement that does not specifically target the High Representative but the current European policy piecemeal.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) 8 countries were not represented at ministerial level: Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Rep. Czech.

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).