16th Sep 2019

UK foreign minister mooted for EU job

The UK foreign office has denied reports in a German newspaper that foreign minister David Miliband is looking to become the EU's next foreign policy chief.

Die Welt am Sonntag yesterday (18 May) reported "high-ranking EU diplomats" as saying that Mr Miliband had the support of France and other countries to become the high representative for foreign and security policy next year.

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He would replace Spain's Javier Solana who has been in the job since 1999.

A foreign office spokesperson, quoted by Reuters news agency, said Mr Miliband, who is 42 and is seen as one of the UK governing Labour party's strongest young politicians, was concentrating on his current job.

"The foreign secretary is fully focussed on being foreign secretary," said the spokesperson.

If ratification of the EU's new set of institutional rules, the Lisbon Treaty, is completed this year, Mr Solana is likely to take on the expanded foreign minister role in January to be replaced by someone else when the new European Commission takes office in autumn.

The new post foresees the foreign policy chief being both the vice-president of the commission as well as the permanent chair of the regular meeting of EU foreign ministers. The post would also be backed up an EU diplomatic service.

This scraps the current overlapping situation of having an external relations commissioner as well as foreign policy chief.

Mr Miliband, who is seen as pro-Europe, is said to have a good reputation in several EU capitals. A speech that he was supposed to give im autumn last year and which was toned down for being too European gave him a lot of positive attention.

In addition, putting a Briton in this post could dilute London's opposition to Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker becoming EU president - the second high-ranking post that the treaty foresees beginning early next year.

Britain is seen as opposing Mr Juncker, who has indicated that he thinks that the president's post should be politically substantial rather than purely ceremonial, for being too federalist.

Talks on who should fill all the posts that are coming up next year are expected to start in earnest under the French EU presidency, beginning on 1 July.

Aside from personalities, discussions also have to take into account political affiliation. Mr Juncker is a centre-right politician while Mr Miliband is from the centre-left. Current speculation puts centre-right Jose Manuel Barroso in for a second term as European Commission president.

The role of European Parliament president is also being taken into consideration in the EU cauldron. Parliament officials suggest the five-year post could be split between Jerzy Buzek, a Polish centre-right MEP, and Martin Schulz, a German MEP, currently head of the socialist faction in the EU assembly.

However, this set-up does not yet foresee anything for the liberals, currently the third biggest political family in Europe.

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