Finola and I arrived back in Ireland last Sunday  week.
As some of you will  have read, I put my name into the ring for the  new post of President of  the  European Council. This job,created under the Lisbon Treaty,  will  give the European Council, which brings together the  Heads of Government of the  27 EU member  states, a fulltime Chairman for the first time. There are many excellent candidates whose names have been mentioned
Up to now, the Chairman (or President) of the European Council of was a  serving Head of Government,who  also still had to run the  affairs of  his/her own country. I did that job myself  for  6 months in 1996, during the Irish Presidency of that year. To prepare a  sucessful  Summit  of the then  15 EU Heads of Government, I  did a tour of the capitals of the 14 other member  states  to  get my colleagues views on  how we might forge a  compromise on the issues that were on the  agenda. This tour made all the difference in  building towards a  consensus when  we eventually met in Dublin. Consensus was  vital because the decisions of the European Council, unlike those of the  Council of Ministers where a  majority  vote is possible, have to unanimous.That will remain so  under the Lisbon Treaty.
Now that we are  27 countries in  the European Union a tour of  26  other  capitals by a serving  Prime Minister is almost impossible because of  his/her duties at home.  By appointing a  fulltime person to  do this  job , the Lisbon Treaty makes the  job  doable again.  It should greatly enhance decision making in  the European Council to have a fulltimer in the  chair. I think  it will also help with the overall  coordination of the  Union’s work between the  Parliament, the Council of Ministers under a rotating Presidency, and the Commission whose job is to prepare all EU laws and supervise their implementation
The European  Council sets the  agenda  for the Union.  It also decides the really difficult questions that cannot be settled at a lower level.
I also attended a very interesting conference in London on the  global economy.
The  amount of time people are spending online  is changing consumer patterns. Time spent  on facebook is time that cannot be spent in  shops!
The recession was seen a  spur to innovation.  A disproportionate number of the Fortune  500  companies were apparently founded  during recessions.  A recession forces businesses out of their comfort  zones and fosters innovative thinking.
There was optimism about the shortterm economic prospects, but a big worry about the longer term trend in Government finances.

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