If the rest of Europe can lean on the Czech Republic to sign the Lisbon Treaty, Europe will be destined to get a President—a new office that’s being created. A lot of the early buzz seems to be focused on Tony Blair, but that seems pretty misguided to me. For one thing, he’s from a center-left party at a time when the center-right parties are generally ascendant in Europe and specifically won the European Parliament elections. Insofar as part of the idea of Lisbon is to create more democratic legitimacy for EU institutions it seems to me that it makes sense to try to have the presidential selection follow the parliamentary elections and pick someone from a European People’s Party or else the centrist/liberal ALDE group that holds the balance of power. Second, it seems that it would be weird to pick someone from a non-Euro member and generally Euroskeptical country. Third, I think someone from a small country would make more sense—someone for whom the job could count as a promotion, rather than a swansong.
Fortunately, I have an ideal candidate in mind. Jan Peter Balkenende. He’s been Prime Minister of the Netherlands since July of 2002, but he’s only 53. He’s a Christian Democrat, but he’s worked with liberals and with social democrats in different coalitions. The Dutch are very much at the heart of the European project and also have strong ties to the United States. Yes, yes, he’s an obscure figure but that’d be part of the point. It’d be an opportunity for a seemingly talented, relatively young politician from a small country to make something out of the office.