New EU branding – instantly forgettable?

Shouldn’t the EU brand convey the message that Europe is one of the most powerful players in the world? If so, I simply cannot understand the choice of Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton for the two top jobs? Bland and unknown leaders like that far from give the image of a leading power. No matter how competent they are they simply fail to convey the right impression. They actually make the EU look irrelevant and I seriously doubt that other world leaders will choose to meet with them instead of key European leaders such as Angela Merkel, and Nicholas Sarkozy.

If so, the idea of the EU to finally speak with one voice globally falls flat since the new EU President and Foreign Affairs Supremo will make no difference whatsoever. They will not, as intended, make the EU as a union more powerful and accessible to world leaders.

The EU needed to elect a president who is a well known and flamboyant leader to attract attention and get its message across. It’s actually hard to see President Herman Van Rompoy becoming headline news for anything short of Europe declaring war on someone.

For years it was talked about Tony Blair becoming president of the EU. And whatever you think of him, you have to admit that he fits the profile of a high powered leader that would make EU policies headline news. Someone like that would be an asset to the brand by forwarding its interests.

But oh no, he didn’t appeal to left wing members in Brussels who consider him too conservative. The EU really managed to live up to its bureaucratic reputation when the wrangling between different blocks resulted in a choice of bland people that will, at best, have a neutral impact on the European Union brand. Simply cannot understand why Europe doesn’t want someone competent with star quality to represent them on a global scale? Someone high powered that leaders in other parts of the world would pay attention to. The kind of horse trading that resulted in the choice of Mr Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton is the EU at its worse. Not only Tony Blair, but all flamboyant candidates were actually rejected.

Imagine that Europe waited six years for the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified and a EU president only to get one that is so grey it makes our part of the world look ridiculous. Shouldn’t the EU compete on the global market place and get the best possible deals for its members? How is that going to be possible for an organisation that doesn’t even understand the need to have a flamboyant president that people are interested in and hence listen to? Is the EU going to be just one big bureaucracy that the rest of the world ignores it and keeps on dealing directly with the leaders of the different member states instead? That would be a pity since all the small EU states will loose out big. Not least the socialist ones that seem to have been a main reason faceless people were elected for the top jobs since nobody feels threatened by them. Seems the EU choose to forget that it’s the flamboyant visionary bosses that change the world. Instead leaders in Brussels opted for the image of keeping its head down. Doesn’t bode good for the future of the European Union.

(Photo: Flickr Foreign and Commonwealth Office/se.2009/eu)

7 thoughts on “New EU branding – instantly forgettable?

  1. Teflon Tony as the face of the EU? Wow. We would have WWIII sooner than later. Had he not been British, one could not have distinguished him in a group of Mugabes, Musevenis and Abachas!

  2. Catarina, 15 or 4 years don't make a difference here. It's obvious you like Blair, me too. However blaming Brown for the state UK is in now is wrong. Am sure Blair would not have done it better the last years.
    Re Berlusconi, it is his flamboyance that makes him top of the news. He did change Italy, but not in the good way?
    Yes flamboyant leaders do change the world, as many other leaders too however more important is into what direction the change happens. It is not that flamboyant leaders always change the world into the right direction.
    On EU, as a last note, I don't think it is ready yet for your flomboyant leader you want. There is too much that needs to happen (allignement and able to compromises to name a few) before we can even think of competing with US, China, Russia, … if it's that what we want ???

  3. First re Blair or Gordon Brown, I believe you can't blaim either of them of the poor situation (crisis) in UK right now. I lived their as well 4 years, returned to Belgium just a year ago. Their both great leaders, but Tony has the 'flamboyant air' you say Catarina, and Gordon hasn't. That's why Cameron will win next year I guess. The UK people are 'sold' by this flamboyance you call it.

    On the EU president matter I do agree and not. Being belgium, I'm not in favor of Van Rompuy however do understand his appointment. the way it is explained here in Belgium is he is NOT like Obama or Hu Jintao or any other … his purpose will be o allign and compromise on the EU matters. Here (Belgium) and he's good in that. And yes, on the bureaucracy of EU, we all agree. Herman is the first but surely not the last. His task is to allign the 'flamboyant leaders' like Merkel and Sarkozy, even Blair. If one of them would be elected now, they would focus too much on their own country matters and these countries' chauvinism would take over the EU believe.

    A last note, I don't agree on the 'flamboyant' leaders complety. Take Reinfeldt, Rasmussen, they're doing a good job. Take Berlusconi, the most flamboyant and -you must admit- a leader in a way, however I'm glad he's not ruling my country.

    1. Lived in London for 15 years and worked with international relations. What Gordon Brown did was increase all indirect taxes since he couldn't raise income tax. And that resulted in the economy being what it is today.

      Am aware of why Van Rompuy was elected and all the problems with the EU. But that doesn't change the fact that the EU needs to have a leader that gets the attention and publicity needed to promote the aims and goals of the EU.

      The problem with Berlusconi is not that he is flamboyant. A head of state that is constantly indicted for crimes is a completely different issue. A non-descript leader that nobody pays attention to is not a good idea unless you want your organization to be in the background and not progress and get more powerful. It's flamboyant leaders who "change the world".

  4. Catarina,

    To be honest, my view (albeit from afar) is that the European Parliament overall is something of a joke: it's more concerned with ensuring the bureaucrats have a comfortable life than benefitting the citizens of Europe. The, frankly, idiotic laws that they’ve passed on so many issues are legendary. Having a grey, unknown president just reinforces this – faceless people employed for their own ends at vast expense and little benefit for the citizens of the countries they are supposed to serve…

    There was never any question of them appointing a strong leader – the leaders of the individual countries would never have allowed themselves to be upstaged in that manner (too many big egos). Frankly, I’m not sure there is a useful place for a European Parliament or president, unless the individual countries agree to downgrade their own parliaments and presidencies to make them subordinate to the central one – turning it into a federation, in effect, along the lines of the US.

    I must also say, though, that I was delighted that Tony Blair was not appointed – although he has charisma, the UK economy is in a parlous state after years of him and Gordon Brown at the helm. Imagine what he might have done to Europe (but I guess the inadequacy of the EU parliament would have stopped anything really happening).

    1. Yes we all know and agree on that Guy. Catch is they can not ignore all the fundamentals of business/government and expect to further Europe's interest.

      It was Gordon Brown who was running the UK economy, not Blair. Lived in London and worked with government issues and I wish Blair had been more involved because things would not have been as bad as they are then.

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