3rd Dec 2022

UK against Verhofstadt for Commission president

The Belgian prime minister's hopes to be given the top job in Brussels as European Commission President may have been dealt a fatal blow.

According to Belgian paper de Standaard, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will not accept Guy Verhofstadt as the person for the position - the two men are said to have clashed during the December Summit on the EU Constitution.

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Mr Blair discussed the issue with French President Jacques Chirac at a meeting over the weekend in Paris.

It would not be the first time London has torpedoed efforts by a Belgian to become Commission President.

Former Belgian prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene's bid for the job ten years ago was vetoed by the UK as he was seen as too federalist.

Schüssel out

Meanwhile, according to Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel is not on the shortlist of six possible candidates for the job.

The newspaper says that external relations commissioner Chris Patten and European Parliament President Pat Cox are the top runners.

However, Mr Patten is not supported by the French and Mr Cox, though popular among new member states, is seen as not having enough executive experience.

Justice and home affairs commissioner Antonio Vitorino, former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt are also still on the list.

But it may be that Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern stands a chance as a compromise candidate. France and Germany are said to look upon him favourably for his handling of the Constitution negotiations.

EU leaders are set to decide on a candidate in June.

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