Against many predictions Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, was not brought into Britain’s new coalition cabinet. Rumours abound that he could become an EU Balkan envoy, but the idea, leaked by Catherine Ashton’s office, has won few fans. Ashdown has form as a former international high representative (a sort of modern-day viceroy) for Bosnia Herzegovina. But as Ashton is learning, it’s little use punting such ideas without first winning the support of other key EU countries. They have failed to rally behind the plan, suspecting it is inspired by London which is demanding a more “muscular” approach to the Balkans. And Ashdown’s macho style was not universally popular in the region itself. Asked about the idea, one influential Balkan politician denied any knowledge before adding, off the record, “it looks like a man in search of a job.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 edition of Prospect.