|MEETER/GREETER FAILS IN BID FOR EUROPEAN MIDEAST POST
1 August 2003
U.N. photo opportunist in Lebanan, Steffan Demistura was so certain of getting the European post
that the Secretary General's office started the process of appointing his replacement. The Italian/
Swedish meeter/greeter went after the job vacated by Miguel Angel Moratinos as Special Envoy of the
European Union for the Middle East with misplaced confidence. He may have calculated that with
Italy presiding over the Union for six months starting July, he will be a shoe-in. He would be
placed there this time not as an Italian, since Italy has too many senior officials, but as a Swede.
However, the Swedes had another candidate, an experienced Ambassador Lefler whom they presented to
Senor Romano Prodi. The former UNICEF greeting cards pusher did not give up. He drew on his
Italian "ceremonial" which did not seem to help. Some still remember his gaffe suggesting holding a
Food Summit away from Rome which drew protests from FAO and a written denouncement from the
Secretary-General's office. He tried to draw on his Middle Easter credentials but they were too limited.
His mini-meeting/greeter colleague in Beirut could hardly help as he is not only more limited but has
his own promotion to seek, having waited for over six years. Still not to worry - a story was
leaked to the Lebanese press indicating that Demistura will replace Moratinos; there were only
small procedural matters to arrange. An accomodating U.N. press officer attending a Davos gathering
at a sea resort in Jordan confidently passed on that wishful thinking to some journalists. All that fell
apart when the European Commission officially decided to appoint Marc Otte in the post. Belgian-born
Ambassador Otte was a prominent member of a team led by Javier Solana, former Spanish Foreign Minister
and the Foreign Affairs czar of the European Commission, who has his own vision of a substantive
role in the Middle East. Otte has already started his mission to Beirut. You can bluff some of the
people some of the time, but you can't bluff all
the people all the time.