Support for Blair as EU president fading

October 30, 2009 12:00 am

, LONDON, Oct 30 – Former British prime minister Tony Blair’s chances of becoming EU president are fading due to flagging support among European leaders, newspapers here said on Friday.

At an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed his predecessor as an "excellent candidate" for the new post, although Blair has yet to confirm he is standing.

Blair is the biggest name currently linked to the job of president of the European Council, which would be created under the reforming Lisbon Treaty, along with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

But newspapers said Brown garnered little support for Blair during a meeting with fellow European socialist leaders.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also agreed at a dinner ahead of the summit that the new president should be appointed from the main centre-right grouping, according to the Guardian.

"It would be right to describe Tony’s chances as fading," one British source said the newspaper.
"Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are not terribly enthusiastic. (Italian Prime Minister) Silvio Berlusconi remains his strongest backer," the source said.

Leaders from Belgium, Hungary, Luxembourg and Spain suggested Thursday they would not back Blair, whose country is neither in the eurozone nor the Schengen group of EU countries that have abolished visas for travel within their borders.

In a clandestine proposal by senior EU leaders, the Left would nominate a candidate for the post of EU foreign minister, while the group of centre-right governments would nominate the president – effectively ruling out Blair, The Times said.

One name being bandied around for the foreign supremo job was British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. However Miliband on Thursday ruled himself out of the role.


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