European leaders have gotten a bad rap over the past few years for their timid and inept handling of the largest crisis Europe has faced in a generation. Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse before they get better.Europe has an immensely confusing and byzantine system of chairmen and secretaries, capped off by its rotating presidency, in which a different country assumes leadership of the body for a six month period before handing power to another state. Now one of these transfers is upon us. Next week, the reins of the EU will shift to Cyprus—one of the most minor of European states.Nor is the country’s small size the only unique aspect of this presidency. President Dimitris Christofias, the future President of the EU, is a Communist, the self-named “red sheep” of Europe, who has unleashed vicious attacks on the EU in recent speeches. As the New York Times reports, many in Europe are now worried that the new president may drive the continent further apart:
While his antiausterity mantra resonates with many Europeans, others fret that Mr. Christofias, an ardent supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the only Communist leader in the 27-member bloc, could use his position as a bully pulpit, helping to unsettle an already divided union further. “Christofias has always had an ambivalent attitude toward the E.U.,” said Fiona Mullen, a leading analyst here. “He comes from a party that has often looked east instead of west.”It is not just his stance against austerity that concerns European leaders. A confidential 2009 cable from the United States Embassy in Cyprus to Washington leaked by WikiLeaks noted that Mr. Christofias had praised Fidel Castro, welcomed a new Venezuelan Embassy in Nicosia, lauded Iran and vilified NATO. Such views could complicate delicate foreign policy negotiations, though senior Cypriot diplomats insist the country is determined to be an honest broker.
At a time when Europeans are in dire need of bold, confident leadership, their highest office will be in the hands of a Communist and friend of Putin who is leading a country of one million people with a crumbling economy. Via Meadia has been surprised by events before, but there is little here to give hope that the next six months will be productive ones for the European Presidency.This is bad timing for Europe, but there is nothing new about that.[Updated]