Kouchner wants 'strong personality' for EU presidency
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner wants a "strong personality" to become the European Union's first permanent president, despite signs the bloc was leaning towards a low-key figure.
Reports point to EU leaders choosing a consensus candidate from a small state.
"There's no favourite at the moment. There are names that are circulating," he told France Inter radio, citing Blair, Belgium's Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and his Luxembourg counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker.
Online gambling sites list Van Rompuy as the clear favourite -- Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has him at 1/2 on, while Ladbrokes.com has 4/7, well ahead of Blair at 5/1 -- following reports he is the consensus choice.
Rompuy is seen as the candidate of those who would like the president to act as a simple chairman of EU leaders' meetings, while Blair's supporters want a high-profile president who can represent Europe on the world stage.
"Myself, I obviously would like for us to be able to speak as 27 nations together and to have weight in the world," Kouchner said. "I think the time has come for us to have a personality who can ... stamp a brand on Europe.
"We should take part in events, not just finance them," he said.
Kouchner confirmed, however, that President Nicolas Sarkozy has agreed with his German counterpart Chancellor Angela Merkel that the two European powerhouses will back the same candidate.
Merkel is not thought to back Blair.
European leaders are discussing the post of president, which was created under the terms of the EU Lisbon Treaty, and a meeting is expected to be called this week or the next to decide on a candidate.AFP/Expatica