EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

European Idea Gets Australian OK

  • April 15th, 2011
  • Posted by 7thmin

nelson_brendan-reduced.jpgAustralia’s EU Ambassador Brendan Nelson says he is getting the idea about the European Idea.

That was the drift of an address to the Australian Council for Europe this month, where the Ambassador reviewed his 18 months in the post – the latest phase of a diverse professional and political career.


“Europe sees us as an ally and part of the Asian community”, he said.

“They see us as an Asian country uniquely with a European heritage, and understanding our region.”

That was one useful point picked up by the former politician, looking to see what strong outcomes could be got from a Canberra-Brussels connection.

Australia’s work on building a friendly relationship with China would be a key interest there; the Chinese embassy at Brussels being the country’s fourth-largest, indicating a connection considered highly important for the future.

“Australia is also seen now as an ally in world trade, in the Doha Round negotiations, which is ironic as we have been an adversary for a long time on agriculture”, the Ambassador said.

Both Australian and European interests were committed to opening markets.

Not so the key relationship between an expanding EU and the United States; where Europe was pressing for change on trade rules and climate change, the US arguing for more defence spending by its allies.

“The main focus is the transatlantic one, but as an ally we are placed at the top of our own region”, he said.


eu-flag-flies.jpgThe expansion of the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty (in force from 1.12.09), and joint action on an increasing range of business, was not being well understood by many outside interests.

Expectations that the currency union would be abandoned under the pressure of the sovereign debt crisis were off course.

“The European Union, and Germany, will not be abandoning the Euro”, said Brendan Nelson.

Changes going on under the new Treaty, supporting the “European Idea”:-

The European Council had acquired its Permanent President, the “impressive former Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy … who is humble in approach, and strong, and has been very effective managing European crises.”

“He has given more political emphasis to the running of it …

“There are those who think European Commission officials should really call the shots.

“The newly appointed High Representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton … has built up the new external action service, which now has 130 missions worldwide.

“In my opinion it may take about four years before they reach full capacity, and about a decade to see it successful.”

In the meantime when the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 was passed last June, on sanctions against Iran, the 27 EU countries quickly had joint sanctions in place.

“It was impressive.”

Other changes had seen the European Parliament acquire “real power”, with decision-making authority over 95 defined policy areas, including budgets and treaties, with the number of members expanding from 736 to 751.

Its decisions affected Australian interests directly in many fields, like chemicals standards or regulation of fisheries.

“Brussels is not Washington as a capital but may become modelled on it, with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission, delivering the State of the Union address, a full legislature, powerful committees, and the cabinet (the European Commission, and Commissioners).”

Brendan Nelson, 52, a medical doctor, with Labor Party family background, became President of the Australian Medical Association in the 1990s, taking a high profile on “social” issues like anti-smoking and workplace health. He moved from Tasmania to Sydney to contest a seat in federal parliament, for the Liberal party, in 1996, becoming a senior Minister, and later the leader of the Party in opposition. He was appointed Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, and Special Representative to the EU and NATO, by the Labor government, in September 2009. He was speaking at a forum of the Australian Council for Europe in Brisbane on 1.4.11.


Biography, see Wikipedia, Brendan Nelson., (15.4.11).