Public Affairs Policy

The Making of a European President by Julian Priestley

By Julian Priestley

This ebook tells the interior tale of Europe's first presidential crusade, the applicants, how they have been selected, the crusade path, the television debates and the demanding negotiations which undefined. It explains what resulted in this new approach of selecting the fee president and what it potential for the way forward for the ecu.

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At Commission meetings in his time, the President would spend hours trying to take colleagues along with him. He enjoyed the cut and thrust of debate, which was sometimes extremely heated. The divisions tended to be along ideological rather than national lines. And votes were frequent. This was his way of mobilising an admittedly smaller College behind new initiatives, so that its members became locked into proposals and frequently their most effective advocates. The contrast with the discipline of Barroso College meetings could not be greater: a strict four-minute rule for any intervention was applied, but in any case controversial points where substantive questions remain open would simply not appear on the agenda.

From 1958 until 1975, the then equivalent of the EPP was the largest of three groups (briefly with nearly an overall majority: less clearly after 1965); the socialists were usually second, but sometimes trailed the Liberals. This changed from 1975 until 1999, after the UK Labour Party deigned to send its members as part of the British delegation; the socialists became the largest single grouping, in part artificially so, because the centre-right was often split, with British conservatives and French Gaullists preferring to dominate small right-wing groups rather than swim in the bigger centre-right pond.

But he was replaced by Gaston Thorn, who, in the view of all the commentators and historians we spoke to, was a weak President. In his time, too, there was a kitchen cabinet, but organised without him (known as ‘la bande des quatre’ (the gang of four), reminiscent of Mrs Mao’s coterie: François-Xavier Ortoli, Etienne Davignon, Lorenzo Natali and KarlHeinz Narjes), his Vice-presidents, who effectively ruled in his place. Again, times were acutely difficult: more oil shocks, economic and industrial crises.

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