WASHINGTON – Federica Mogherini, age 41, since February 2014 Italy’s (youngest ever) Minister of Foreign Affairs, has just been appointed High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU top external relations position.
Mogherini: 5 1/2 lines on Wikipedia
If this were an important job, this choice would be astonishing, given the fact that prior to becoming Italy’s Minister (just a few months ago) Mogherini had no real policy-making experience. But the fact is that this EU foreign affairs job is not important; and therefore it can be (safely) given to a person whose Wikipedia biography amounts to 5 1/2 lines.
You got it. All the works and accomplishments of this lady who supposedly will “run” Europe’s foreign affairs can be described in 5 1/2 lines of text. Nobody in his right mind would give a really important foreign affairs job to a person who never held any real “hands on” positions in foreign policy.
Therefore, the only possible explanation is that, contrary to what the important sounding “High Representative” title may suggest, this position is not important. (This tells you how serious the EU really is about real political integration. More on this later).
Career in the party
As to Mogherini’s qualifications, as noted above, we know very little. She may be very smart and quite capable. But her career path does not tell us much about her intellectual and professional skills. And what we know is not reassuring.
She is essentially a party functionary who never had “a real job”. She rose through the ranks of the Partito Democratico, the modernized and updated post-Marxist version of the old Italian Communist Party, now closer to a European Social Democratic Party.
And this allows me to assume that her promotions from this to that party position are largely (if not mostly) a matter of political loyalty. In order to get a party political job you have to be dependable more than smart.
From party to Ministry to Brussels
From her party functionary position Mogherini was picked by freshly minted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, (another top leader with a very thin CV), to become Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in February 2014.
Just like that.
No prior significant experience outside of her positions within the Partito Democratico. Nothing memorable, anyway.
And now, thanks to Renzi’s intense lobbying in Brussels, she gets to become Europe’s “Foreign Minister”. What an amazing career!
In contrast, Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister who will succeed Herman Van Rompuy as President of the European Council, has a long and distinguished record in Poland’s national politics.
What do we make of this?
So how do we read these two key appointments? One going to a seasoned policy-maker, and the other one to an inexperienced rookie?
Very simple. The EU member states believe that the President of the European Council matters, while the foreign affairs job is mostly window dressing, and so it does not matter that much who gets it.
Foreign policy does not matter
If this is so, however, then we also conclude that the notion of a truly cohesive “European” foreign policy run by a powerful European “High Representative”, as opposed to a collection of individual foreign policies pursued by single EU member states, is still a dream. Europe is not a Federation.
Therefore, as foreign policy is still a national prerogative, the recently created job of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is of little consequence.
It is mostly window dressing aimed at giving the impression that there is a EU foreign policy.
This being the case, since there is very little “there”, the job can be safely given to a person with almost no experience. Mogherini will have no real independent negotiating powers. Therefore, very few chances of doing any real harm.
The world sees this
That said, as the whole world is watching, most observers will come to the same conclusion. This foreign policy position, now entrusted to a relatively young person with no record, is (and will continue to be) of no real consequence.
In truth, “Europe” does not exist as a real political entity. The European Union is mostly a collection of nations states tied together by a variety of intergovernmental treaties and various arrangements. But it is not a Federation, with one central government and one foreign policy, let alone a European Army.
Just as in the past, when other nations want to discuss real business, they will go to Berlin, Paris or Warsaw, and not to Brussels.