UK ‘will block’ French FM from EU top job

21st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, June 21 (AFP) - Britain will block any attempt to make French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier the next president of the European Commission, The Guardian newspaper said Monday.

LONDON, June 21 (AFP) - Britain will block any attempt to make French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier the next president of the European Commission, The Guardian newspaper said Monday.

In a dispatch from its Brussels correspondent, quoting unidentified British sources, it said Barnier was seen by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government as a lightweight with only a slight command of English.  

"If the French do run Barnier, it will be very divisive and Blair will be forced to block him," one official was quoted as saying.  

During last week's summit in Brussels, Paris and Berlin's top choice for commission president, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, was rejected by London.  

Chris Patten, the veteran British politician and current EU external affairs commissioner, likewise withdrew from the running after admitting a French veto would block any chances of his nomination.  

Leaders succeeded in finding agreement last Friday on an EU constitution to manage the affairs of the 25 member states, but are still wrangling over the replacement to Italy's Romano Prodi.  

The nomination should be made by June 30, when Ireland, having presided over the accord on the constitution, hands over the rotating EU presidency to the Netherlands.  

Asked about the Guardian report, a spokesman for Blair said Monday: "In terms of names, we will be keeping our silence on the potential candidates."  

"We want this to be a genuine process of consultation" led by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern," he said. "I think that's better done in private than in public."  

Asked if a special EU summit might be convened in order to agree a new commission president, the spokesman replied: "I don't rule out it."

© AFP

 
Subject: French news

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