European Politics Update

by Henry Farrell on November 20, 2009

So as “Ingrid notes”:, EU member states have chosen Von Rompuy as the new President of the European Council. To use the terms that Euro-politicians have themselves been using (which were nicked, presumably by Brian Cowen, from the title of a political science text on Irish Taoisigh), they have decided to go for a chairman – someone with a low international profile who is good at conciliating warring factions – rather than a chief. I have no doubt that Von Rompuy will do very good work, but he surely will not be a colossus bestriding the world stage, banging the heads of Sarkozy, Merkel and Brown together to force them to agree common European policy and so on. This means, I think, that the interesting stuff will be happening at the level of the foreign policy representative, Baroness Ashton. This too is unlikely to be a high profile post in the short term – but unlike Von Rompuy, Ashton will have a very substantial set of bureaucratic resources to draw upon, with links both to the Council and Commission, as well as her own European External Action Service, which will have an independent budget line. This could add up to something pretty interesting in a few years time. (Update: via Matt Y. “Annie Lowrey”: makes more or less the same point).

Turning to _real_ European politics, “the”: “crisis”: “continues”: but looks set to come to no good outcome. FIFA shows no interest in scheduling a rematch, despite Thierry Henry’s statement that a rematch would be the fairest option. Those involved seem determined to do a _reductio ad absurdum_ on Richard Posner’s “arguments about responsibility”: French footballers (and – judging from Trappatoni’s discreet circumlocutions – perhaps Irish footballers too) clearly feel that it is their obligation to push the rules as far as they can go and further – and if the referee doesn’t spot the odd match-and-qualifying-round-determining handball here or there; well, the culprit has no obligation to seek anything but his own advantage, and anyway, it all balances out in the end, doesn’t it? “Incompetent”: “regulators”: shrug their shoulders and refuse to take any responsibility for the mess. And Irish and French politicians deplore the outcome – but declare themselves powerless to do anything about it. Whether this spells out a possible case for world government to prevent such atrocities occurring in the future, I leave to the theorists. However, I don’t think anyone can deny that the end result is manifestly contrary to even the most minimal principles of justice, fairness and efficiency, completely exploding Posner’s arguments in the eyes of all fairminded individuals.