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Karsten Riise

Master of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen

Federica Mogherini has done a marvelous job as High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Defense in the European Union. When Mogherini became High Representative, nobody expected much from her, but she has turned out a fantastic positive surprise. Mogherini has succeeded in seizing the opportunities given to her, and she managed to shape them into lasting foundations and to create real achievements. Among Mogherini’s greatest successes, the most recent ones are her staunch efforts to reach out to Iran through the JCPOA deal and to support that deal in the face of the US action of breaking its honor to the agreement.

Mogherini built up her EU appointment, from being not too much more than protocol in the US-slipstream, into being something with independent EU international substance and importance, despite some regular criticisms, needed to speed things up. Probably, the best solution to keep balance in the EU after Brexit could be to promote Mogherini to succeed Juncker as the new President of the European Commission. For long-term succession in the Commission, the EU needs to look systematically among many of the less famous political names, to find a new generation of “Mogherini-leaders” (regardless of gender).


Time for Mogherini to move forward

Federica Mogherini has done an absolutely marvelous job as High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Defense in the EU. In Mogherini’s time, the EU’s Foreign Affairs have been taken from being a 1000-year endless paper-project into something of real international importance. Of course, in an era of “US First Policies” and the foot-dragging UK leaving the EU, times have been moving with Mogherini, and the support she has received has been substantial from all sides — from EU Council President Tusk, probably from the President of the EU Parliament Tajani (also Italian), and not least from Tajani’s predecessor Schulz (a close friend of Juncker), Brexit-negotiator Barnier, and certainly from the whole Commission under Commission President Juncker. Even if, creating a strong common foreign policy for so many different EU member-states was inherently a near impossible task, Mogherini has succeeded in seizing the opportunities given to her, and building them out into lasting foundations and creating real achievements.

Among Mogherini’s greatest successes are recently her staunch efforts to reach out to Iran through the JCPOA deal and supporting that deal in the face of the US action of breaking its honor to the agreement. Mogherini courageously worked to establish the “Special Purpose Vehicle” to protect EU’s firms from “secondary” US sanctions in their legitimate dealings with Iran. Additionally, Mogherini has ceaselessly worked to establish EU sovereignty in world affairs. Mogherini has driven the establishment of the EU military cooperation PESCO, and the creation of an EU military headquarters, while she kept working along the lines of connecting EU military and civilian missions in ways, which the US military has never wanted to, or been able to.

The support of Mogherini towards the Palestinians, while still keeping a diplomatic line to constructive forces inside Israel, should also be mentioned. Moreover, Mogherini’s efforts to build out the External Action Service and to firmly establish the EU’s own diplomatic organization is one of her great achievements. Also, Mogherini has continuously sought solutions to European security in the East. In the face of western political hysteria surrounding Russia, Mogherini seems to insist on keeping open the talks with Russia, and not only shouting and throwing around with porcelain (“sanctions”). Mogherini’s support for an EU strategic cooperation with Africa should be lauded, though it still lacks EU-support for African industrialization, high-value creation, and exports. Even though criticized by some “politically correct” observers, Mogherini’s EU-engagement with Morocco is long-term right as a line to Africa, with the Arab world and Islam, considering the migration issue, and in a lot of other strategic ways. Mogherini’s commitment in working with the cultural and political world of Islam (theme of her university dissertation), also within Europe, is extremely welcomed and needed in these years of often politically exploited xenophobic alienations.

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As late as this week, Mogherini once again showed colors by telling the US to cool down, when the US threatens war on Iran with plans to send 120,000 soldiers to the Gulf, and tries to press against the independence of the EU’s weapons program.

When Mogherini became High Representative, nobody expected much of her, but she has turned out a fantastic positive surprise. In contrast, Mogherini’s predecessor Ashton was significantly less illustrious she was more focused on working in the framework of European extension of US policies. Similar to Ashton, few really knew Mogherini outside her home country, and even in her native country, Mogherini was not an established “top-number,” having only served nine months as Foreign Minister in one of Italy’s very many governments. Comparable to Ashton, Mogherini probably only got the chance for such a jump to one of the world’s absolute top-jobs, because she is a woman. Nevertheless, in Ashton’s case, the result of a female promotion-policy was not so spectacular, but in Mogherini’s case (perhaps by luck?) it turned out fortuitous. The Commission in these days of nonsense“equality” strives to create a self-image in this field.

In getting the number two EU top-job, Mogherini surpassed a lot of much more famous names. But there are quite a number of famous politicians (of both sexes), who are more famous than adequate. Few names are so famous, that their fame can continue for decades (like Juncker), but some other “big” names (it is easy to mention one) can safely be skipped to give opportunities for more extraordinary up-coming figures who (like Mogherini) can create the quantum-leaps so greatly needed in international politics. The legacy which Javier Solana and Ashton left for the job as High Representative was merely traveling around with an EU-flag, not seldom in the slip-stream of US policies. Mogherini built up her EU appointment, from being not too much more than protocol in the US-slipstream, into being something with independent EU international substance and importance, despite some of my regular criticisms, needed to speed things up. This is an achievement, even greater is that within her executive, Mogherini has not been just an opportunistic flip-flop-pleaser who enthusiastically voted for any which-ever war-of-the-day in trying to serve those voices which appear to be strongest, in order to be lifted up. Mogherini seems, in a pragmatic way, to stick with some of her ideas from a young age and to her inner core as a person. Italian MP Chiara Moroni once said that Mogherini is something rare — going where she goes, entirely on merit.

Mogherini is originally left-wing, but also many left-wingers have turned out to be some of the most venal politicians, once they got into the circles of power. There may be things which we at this time of writing ¬do not know about, and few people can be saints (especially not in politics), but it seems that Mogherini has avoided many moral traps.

This month, EU-elections are in process, and a new EU Commission President will soon succeed Juncker, who has decided to leave. All Commission posts are up for discussion. Has Mogherini got the support of the new government in Italy with EU-sceptic Five-Star Movement influence? And if Mogherini moves, where will she go, and who will follow? Let us look at this issue from another angle: Barnier is one of the best EU talents. In tough negotiations, he is always prepared and intellectually tops. Barnier is rightly positioned as one of the frontrunners to become the next President of the EU Commission. After Brexit, however, France is so strong in the EU, that many other countries (incl. Germany and Italy) might hesitate to see a French become the president of the European Commission.

Probably, the best solution to keep balance in the EU after Brexit could be to promote Mogherini to succeed Juncker as the new President of the EU Commission.

Only one can have the top job. While Germany is the EU’s economic heavy-weight and it is well positioned to nominate a coming strong EU “Euro Finance Minister,” France with such an international military and diplomatic history will be the EU’s biggest player to serve the hands-on spectrum of EU’s international politics. So, if Barnier, for the sake of balance inside the EU, should sadly have to leave the number one opportunity as Commission-chief to Mogherini, he could marvelously become the next High Representative. Barnier has demonstrated extraordinary skills to deal with the UK. The EU needs someone with Barnier’s skills to further promote the EU vis-à-vis inhibiting US strings and policies, to negotiate with the strong Chinese, the Middle-East, and form strategy with a new Indian superpower. Africa is one of the EU’s top strategic priorities, and Africa needs a totally different approach than the other continents — a true partnership, breaking with past legacies. Germany has rightly proposed to create a strong EU Commissioner solely for Africa Partnership for prosperity, and such a position should balance the whole range of the EU, including industrialization, trade, diplomacy, defense, and culture. No Italian government should say no to have an Italian President of the EU Commission.

Commissioner Cañete from Spain has done an excellent international job on climate. Cañete is a relevant figure, he could incidentally increase support from Spain, and he could probably be an excellent EU Commissioner for Africa Partnership. Poland and East-Europe are greatly represented with EU Council President Tusk. The Industry-Commissioner will be strengthened by PESCO, as well as the increases in the EU military, energy, and IT/tele industries. With US trade-wars looming and a new development-friendly trade-deal needed to promote industrialization, hi-tech and top-services in Africa, the Trade-Commissioner becomes a heavier post, which can balance the structure. As long as Denmark and Sweden are against joining the Euro, their governments and parliaments should not be eligible to nominee their nationals for any of the absolute top EU-jobs (President of the EU Commission, Commission-VP and High Representative for EU Foreign Affairs and Defense, President of the European Council, Finance and Budget Commissioner, President of the EU Parliament, President of the EU Court, EU Central Bank chief, to mention just a handful).

For long-term success in the Commission, the EU needs to look systematically among many of the less famous political names, to find a new generation of “Mogherini-leaders” (regardless of gender). Get these new talents into the cabinets of the EU Commissioners, and facilitate new talents to show their colors, also to the world public.


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