I was impressed to see David Miliband’s continental embrace with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner the other day and couldn’t help be impressed by this more continental attitude towards foreign affairs. I just don’t think it would have worked for Jack Straw or Robin Cook, and I make no comment about Margaret Beckett!
This might be a personal approach from our young foreign secretary but it might also be an intended strategy on the part of a foreign secretary who knows there are lots of bridges to be mended in foreign affairs. Britain’s apparent subservience to US foreign policy under the Bush Presidency lost Britain a lot of international friends following the apparent abandonment of Robin Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy.’
Not a day seems to pass without Hillary Clinton commenting on his vibrancy or a personal embrace with the French foreign minister.
So, why would the FCO have gone all European? With the changes in the Lisbon Treaty the European Pillar of defence and foreign affairs will have far more prominence on the world stage and the British Foreign Secretary will have an increasingly important, and potentially difficult, job of maintaining the trans-Atlantic alliance with the United States and the emerging common foreign policy in the EU.
A militarily pro-active United States might well have less support from a more organised EU than it did from the less formal arrangement of NATO’s means of deployment.
This is presumably where the UK’s Foreign Office will feel it has a role to play and the unquestionably popular British Foreign Secretary will feel he can help to keep the two parties together and maintain the all-important special relationship whilst becoming a bigger player in European foreign policy decision-making.