Thursday

3rd Dec 2020

First names floated for top new EU jobs

Although the ink on the new EU treaty deal is barely dry, several names are already being floated as possible candidates for the European Union's first-ever president – among them Tony Blair, former UK prime minister.

"He [Tony Blair] is a very remarkable man, the most pro-European of all Britons. It would be quite a smart move to consider him", French president Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday (19 October), triggering speculations about who could be given a high-profile job after the new Lisbon Treaty enters into force, set for mid-2009.

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  • Will Tony Blair return to EU stage as the bloc's first-ever president? (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

A similar message came from UK prime minister Gordon Brown, who said Mr Blair would be "a great candidate for any significant international job". However, he added it was "premature" to debate the list of possible candidates before the treaty is ratified.

Although the job comes with no executive powers, the new president of the European Council - a body representing EU governments - is expected to be a top politician. The first president is also expected to set the job description for future presidents.

The post is a two and a half year term, but it can be held twice. The system replaces the current situation where the post rotates among member states every six months.

But despite his high-profile career, giving an EU post to Mr Blair would probably cause some strong controversy.

Critics continue to point to his support of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 - something that caused a deep rift in the EU. Others question his commitment to the European project, given the fact that London does not participate in some key common policies.

A spokesperson for former UK leader told British media that Mr Blair - who is now the quartet's envoy to the Middle East - was "focusing on his current role".

Luxembourg's prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Poland's former president Aleksander Kwasniewski have also been tipped for the top job.

Foreign affairs representative

Meanwhile, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso - reportedly eyeing a second term from 2009 - has welcomed prospects of a permanent EU president, saying it will bring "more stability and continuity".

"It is better for the commission president to have relation with the president on permanent, well-known basis than to establish relations every six month", Mr Barroso said despite his recently expressed concern that the EU president post will shift power away from EU institutions towards member states.

Similarly, Mr Barroso praised the newly created post of EU foreign affairs representative, combining the two current jobs of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU external affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"A great part of our work in the commission is spent on articulation [...] to the council", Mr Barroso said on the position, which is expected to improve the European Union's profile on international scene and - perhaps - finally give the world a single phone number to call in Europe.

Unlike the EU president, the appointment of the foreign affairs chief to set to be controlled by the European Parliament as the politician in question will also be a vice-president of the European Commission.

Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt has been cited as a possible candidate for the post.

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