Cooper, is the Director General, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union and author of the groundbreaking book, 'The Breaking of Nations'. He was discussing the role of the new EU Diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS).
This body which though already extant in a fledgling form exists through the Lisbon Treaty cum Constitution via 13a-III:
In fulfilling his or her mandate, the High Representative shall be assisted by a European External Action Service. This service shall work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and shall comprise officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States. The organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service shall be established by a decision of the Council. The Council shall act on a proposal from the High Representative after consulting the European Parliament and after obtaining the consent of the Commission.
In the Question and Answer session afterwards I picked this up as I was aware that Hans-Gert Pöttering had set up a mandated negotiation team made up of key federasts to discuss the subject, as reported by Bruno Waterfield in the Daily Telegraph. This team of Enrico Baron Crespo, Elmar Brok, Andrew Duff and Dagmar Roth-Berendt MEPs had been mandated by Poettering to demand that the Parliament shopuld have "proper hearings of the special representatives and ambassadorial nominees in the tradition of the US Congress for nominations of a clearly political nature" and to ensure that, "Any inter-governmentalism of policy areas under Community competence" should "be avaoided".
Was Cooper "happy with this idea", I asked "that the Parliament should hold hearings to make or break ambassadorial appointments for the EU?"
In a general sense he was, he thought that the quality of Congressional and Senate scrutiny was something that the European Parliament should aspire to "The Parliament still hasn't worked out what it is for", he said. Hearings could be something that they could do. But he added a worrying and in my view insurmountable caveat.
"Provided that it acts responsibly," by this he meant that hearings would be a good idea if they were on a bilateral basis. However, "If we end up with ambassadors who are solely picked on the basis of political policies then that would be the ruin for us".
Later over sandwiches I came back to him on this, pointing out that since the rejection of Rocco Butiglione on party political grounds and the growth of European Political Parties and the natural desire of those granted electoral success to want to take control of all aspects of governance then the EEAS was under his own terms guaranteed to be a "ruin". Well that relies on the qualities of the MEPs he went on to say.
You can see from the expression our faces what we thought of that idea. And it seems that he is fan of at least one of the mandated MEPs.
On other areas of policy he was equally revealing. On being asked about the rising power of Russia and Europe's policy towards Russia he put it like this,
Not very encouraging.
"Does the UK currently have a policy towards Russia? The answer is it is 'very complicated'.
Does the EU have a policy towards Russia? The answer is that it is 'even more complicated than that'...
However, the EU needs an Energy Policy. If we have an energy policy we will therefore have a Russia policy"