Candidates for the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.
Javier Aguilar Ortuño. Strasbourg.
A Norwegian socialist aged 63 years old and a German liberal aged 62 will fight next June for the General Secretariat of the Council of Europe, Pan-European organization of 47 states, including Russia and Turkey, with headquarters in Strasbourg (France) –this should not be confused with the powerful European Union, sharing the same hymn and flag–, in charge of the defence and the protection of democracy, rule of law and human rights.
One of them, Thorbjørn Jagland, finishes this year his five-year-mandate as the 13th secretary general of the Council and if he is elected again, he will become the first secretary general who repeats mandate since 1949. The other one, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, is trying to become the second woman to get this position, after the French Catherine Lalumière (1989-1994).
The northern politician has been prime minister (1996-97), minister for Foreign Affairs (2000-01) and president of the Parliament (2005-09) of his country. The German candidate was minister for Justice in the governments of Helmut Kohl (1992-96) and Angela Merkel (2009-13).
Jagland, also known for being president of the Nobel Prize Committee (his mandate finishes this year), has the support of not a few countries defending the reform he has started in the organization (saving costs and restructuring the Council to make it more effective) and he has witnessed how his presence in the media has increased as a result of his mediation in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine for the peninsula of Crimea.
Also in favour of the organization’s reform, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has a powerful weapon: Merkel’s support.
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has a powerful weapon: the support of the chancellor Angela Merkel
300 members of parliament from the Chamber of Deputies and Senates of the member states, sharing a seat in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, will be in charge of choosing the visible head of the organization. The remaining 18 are members of the Russian delegation, deprived until January 2015 of its right to vote because of the “annexation to Crimea”, something that seems to harm Jagland. Some people consider unfair that the Committee of Ministers –the decision-making body of the Council of Europe grouping ministers for Foreign Affairs or ambassadors in the organization–, removed the former president of the Assembly, Jean-Claude Mignon (EPP), from the list of candidates in February, in the only selection process for the position. Reasons? According to his detractors: not meeting the conditions of the Juncker report, written in 2005 by the current candidate of the EPP to the European Commission, the one who proposed international prestige for the Secretary General of the Council and that they had previously held the position of prime minister or minister in their country.
Last January, the liberal from Luxembourg, Anne Brasseur, was elected president of the Assembly. With the victory of Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. Two liberal women as visible heads of the Council of Europe?
Besides, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger may find her compatriot Martin Schultz –still holding the presidency of the European Parliament– as the new president of the European Commission. Two Germans leading the European Commission and the Council of Europe?
And what about the next secretary general of the NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, from the same country and political family as Jagland (being also the 13th secretary general). Two Norwegians leading the two organizations?
Reluctant to celebrate an online debate offered by the Association of European Journalists, Avenue Europa, Jagland and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger get votes for their cause with each member of parliament. The ending, in two months.