Home News Blair ‘backs Verhofstadt’ to head EU Commission

Blair ‘backs Verhofstadt’ to head EU Commission

Published on 27/05/2004

27 May 2004

BRUSSELS – UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to back his Belgian counterpart’s bid to head the next European Commission, making Guy Verhofstadt a clear front-runner for the job, a UK newspaper reported on Thursday.

According to ‘The Independent’, Blair has dropped earlier reservations about Verhofstadt getting the Commission job and is unlikely to oppose the Belgian Prime Minister’s selection to the post when EU leaders vote on the question at a summit in Brussels next month.

The Independent says that while London is still officially backing a bid for the EU Commission job by Danish President Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the UK government concedes he has little chance of landing the post.

Faced with this reality, Blair would not use his veto to scupper Verhofstadt’s bid for the Commission Presidency, the newspaper says.

The Independent says German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder convinced Blair over dinner in Downing Street last week that Verhofstadt would make a good Commission President.

Schroeder pointed out that Verhofstadt favours the same sort of labour market deregulation as Blair, the newspaper said, adding that the Belgian Prime Minister was once even nicknamed ‘Baby Thatcher’.

“We are very keen to pursue the jobs agenda and want the new Commission to move on it. He has good credentials to do that,” a British government source told The Independent.

Blair’s tacit endorsement of the Belgian Prime Minister means Verhofstadt is now a clear front-runner for the post, which becomes vacant at the end of this year when current president Romano Prodi and his team of 20 Commissioners reach the end of their term in office.

France and Germany have already made it clear that they strongly support the Belgian Prime Minister’s candidature, meaning he now has the backing of three of the EU’s ‘big four’ countries.

Itlay has not yet made its preferences clear although with Prodi coming to the end of a stint at the head of the EU executive, it is clear that Rome will not be putting forward its own candidate for the job.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news