25th Aug 2019

Sarkozy suggests Blair for EU president post

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested making outgoing UK prime minister Tony Blair the president of the European Union – a move seen as a way of securing London's support for a new treaty when EU leaders meet in Brussels at the end of this week.

"Many will say that if the United Kingdom accepts the reforms of the treaties at the next European summit it will be in exchange for placing Blair at the front of Europe," a diplomat said, according to Spanish daily El Pais.

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The comment comes after the Financial Times on Saturday (16 June) reported that Mr Sarkozy is said to have discussed the idea with other EU leaders ahead of next week's European summit.

The summit will be Mr Blair's last major international event as prime minister before he steps down on 27 June. He is expected to be succeeded by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

German diplomats said Mr Sarkozy put his plan to German chancellor Angela Merkel – the current leader of the rotating six-month EU presidency.

He also put the proposal to the Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero who, according to government sources, was open to the initiative, writes El Pais.

However, number 10 Downing Street has denied the media reports. "The prime minister has made it clear that he is not going to return to front-line politics," a UK government spokeswoman said, according to the Associated Press.

The draft EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, foresees a permanent two-and-a-half-year presidency – renewable once - to replace the current system, in which the post rotates among the 27 member states every six months.

The role itself would remain administrative and non-executive, but rather than the presidency being held by a member state – as Germany currently does - it would be held by an individual elected by and accountable to the EU member states.

The idea of a permanent presidency looks set to survive member state negotiations on a new look treaty for the bloc.

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