6 september 2014, on foreign shores

A good measure of how far from european shores I have become is closeness to the new european commission appointments and the president of the european council. Humpty rumpty (see 21 november 2009) does not seem five years ago. Juncker (see 26 may 2014, eurosclerosis and 18 june 2011 in celebration of...) is probably my last link. I have at least heard of tusk, which puts me ahead of most brits, a very concept meanwhile under threat as the chances of scotland seceeding becomes not impossible. I feel closer to that now than rather slower-moving european questions. The interviews meanwhile are underway, and while italy's federica mogherini will be foreign minister - sorry, the high representative for foreign and security policy - the rest is in juncker's gift, albeit subject to european parliament confirmation. The whole process seems remote to me, though I remind myself of its centrality to the european project which continues to evolve. For all the doomsayers' certainty, the euro is still thriving and its central apparatus is growing and even becoming more activist, a good thing in these sparse circumstances, despite the limits of its democratic foundation (see 2 june 2011, trichet awaaaay). Though it was always an economically-anchored project, tusk and juncker's term may well be salient for foreign policy. Far away, the middle east may push europe-within-nato to take on substance, but there is nowhere nearer to home than russia and tusk's appointment probably owes more to how the eu deals with russia-in-ukraine than anything else; there will be some tough times ahead on that. Even closer to home, britain (or the "rest-of-the-uk", as commentators are coming to call the island should scotland go independent) may yet serve up the greatest challenge, as the bit that is out of the eu will want in, and the bit that is in to be out, certainly the least productive headache of them all.