Thursday

13th Aug 2020

Brown backs Blair for EU president job

Tony Blair has renewed his campaign to become the first president of Europe and has received backing from UK leader Gordon Brown.

According to a report in the Sunday Independent, Mr Brown is prepared to back his predecessor and great political rival for the new post - foreseen under the EU's planned Lisbon Treaty - in order to have Britain holding a key role in the "new world order."

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  • Tony Blair reportedly has his eyes on the EU president post (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"He [Brown] will have to swallow hard to sit down in meetings once again with Blair. But he accepts that there needs to be someone from the UK in the new global architecture. There is no opposition to the plan. Things have moved on, people have moved on," said a senior official quoted by the newspaper.

It notes that Mr Blair held private talks with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday last week, where the issue of his candidacy was likely discussed.

Mr Blair last year received the public backing of French president Nicolas Sarkozy but he is a devisive figure in Europe having supported the unpopular US-led war in Iraq. In addition, as a Briton, he represents a country that has ambivalent relations with the EU and is not in some of its key structures, such as the euro-zone.

He is currently the Middle East envoy, a role he has held for two years. However, critics argue that he has had little success in the job. A gifted orator, he is also the world's highest paid speaker, according to The Times, recently earning almost €440,000 for two half-hour speeches.

The President of the European Council is a two and half year post that can be renewed once. The job description in the Lisbon Treaty foresees that the president represents the EU externally and organises the regular meetings of EU leaders.

However, the description leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre, prompting much debate in Brussels about what sort of person should hold the job and how much power they should have.

The European Parliament is keen to keep a lid on the powers, fearing that an all-powerful president would change the institutional balance of the EU towards member states.

Last month, its constitutional affairs committee approved a report saying the president should not speak for the EU as a whole on political issues.

But putting a senior political figure such as Tony Blair into the post would likely see this happening.

For the moment, the creation of the post hangs in the balance. The Lisbon Treaty faces a referendum Ireland later this year and has yet to be approved in the Czech Republic. It is also facing a court challenge in Germany and has still to be signed by the Polish president.

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