Race is on for EU top jobs

5th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Czech Republic and Poland still have to ratify the Lisbon Treaty before European leaders can name anyone to become president of the EU council and a new foreign affairs supremo.

Brussels -- Ireland's Yes vote for the EU reform treaty has intensified the unofficial race for the European Union's new top jobs, including a figurehead president.

The Czech Republic and Poland still have to ratify the Lisbon Treaty before European leaders can name anyone to become president of the EU council and a new foreign affairs supremo.

Top EU figures would like the posts decided at the next EU summit this month and lobbying is already underway. Former British prime minister Tony Blair is the early favourite to become the first EU president.

The centre-left politician has support from London and Paris. He suffers from his close ties to US President George W Bush in launching the Iraq war in 2003.

Blair's chances may also be hit by Britain's position outside of the eurozone and Europe's no-borders Schengen zone.

His "New Labour" centrist policies also lost him friends in the traditional socialist camp but it will be up to the heads of state and government to decide who gets the job, which is designed to answer former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger's old question "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"

Blair has denied campaigning for the position.

"There is no campaign. As we have said time and again on this, there is nothing to be a candidate for since the job doesn't actually exist," a Blair spokesman said in July.

Since stepping down as prime minister in June 2007, Blair has been the envoy for the Middle East Quartet -- the EU, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- which aims to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Other names in the EU frame include Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker or his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende.

The Belgian press has begun to cite former Irish President Mary Robinson as a potential EU president.

The identity of the first EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy is even more uncertain.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, now in the European limelight as his country is the holder of the current EU presidency, is one name being bandied around, though his pro-Turkish stance does not please some EU members.

Other names cited are that of Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner for enlargement, and former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen.

The chances of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appear to have been badly knocked by his Social Democratic party's heavy defeat in the German parliamentary elections.

Sweden wants the new posts to be introduced quickly along with rest of the Lisbon Treaty, aimed at streamlining the institutions of the growing bloc.

The focus is now on the Czech Republic and its eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus.

For while Polish head of state Lech Kaczynski has promised to ink the text after an Irish Yes vote, the situation is more complicated in the Czech Republic.

Klaus has said he will wait for his nation's Constitutional Court to pronounce on the validity of the treaty.

The court is reviewing a complaint against the treaty filed by a group of Czech senators last week and expects to announce a date for the final ruling within three weeks.

The complaint by the Czech senators has upset treaty supporters, not least because British opposition leader David Cameron. His Conservative party is expected to win an election next year and Cameron has said he will hold a referendum if the treaty has not been ratified across the EU by the time he comes to power.


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