Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister and the man now coordinating Europe's foreign policy -- insofar as it has one -- has everything going for him. He's telegenic, charming, experienced, and ambitious. Savvy when it comes to the media, he has a cunning, deft touch for geopolitics. One month into Sweden's six-month presidency of the EU, Bildt has already provided a pleasant contrast to the equivocating, dissembling politicians that usually serve as Europe's public face. To put it kindly, he's a rare commodity among his colleagues in Brussels these days.
That, however, is precisely the problem: Bildt is too damn good. Qualified, robust, and charismatic, Bildt is an odd fit for an EU paralyzed by the need for consensus among its member states. Before he ever came to Brussels, the assertive Swede had already upset some of the EU's heavyweights. The trouble began in Germany, which doesn't care for Bildt's career-long tough tone on Russia. France wasn't keen on Bildt's vigor for EU expansion into the Balkans and Turkey. He's ruffled feathers in Spain for marshalling Sweden's recognition of Kosovar independence. And Cyprus didn't take kindly to Bildt's suggestion that it may have provoked the Turkish military invasion that continues to territorially divide the island nation.
So while Europe watchers are enjoying the Carl Bildt show in Brussels, it's no surprise that his colleagues in the EU bureaucracy are already angling to ensure he's denied any opportunity to stick around past his current six-month stint. The EU will likely be in the market for a robust foreign minister next year, if the Lisbon Treaty is passed as expected. And although European policymakers unanimously acknowledge that Bildt is qualified for the post, everyone knows that he won't be tapped. He would never survive the horse-trading negotiations that member states partake in to divvy up EU portfolios.
The probable brevity of Bildt's time in Brussels speaks to the quiet aspirations of today's EU -- and its aversion to anyone who tries to upset the status quo. Bildt has run afoul of the upside-down value system currently framing Europe foreign policy. His preference for a unified EU, acting as a confident strategic actor on the international stage, crosses a de facto red line for states loathe to see the EU chart a bold course. The 60 year-old Bildt, who came of age as a thinker at a time when politicians and intellectuals sought refuge from war in the power of international organizations, embraces the EU as a means to oversee the continent's wars, peace and security. It's an ideal he's lived out, partnering with Richard Holbrooke in Dayton to bring an end to the Bosnian war in 1995 and later serving in Sarajevo as an envoy, first for Europe and then the United Nations.