Expatica news

EU President ‘backs Verhofstadt Commission bid’

16 June 2004

BRUSSELS – The man currently in charge of running the European Union believes Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt should be the next European Commission President, it was reported on Wednesday.

According to the Irish Times, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who’s country holds the six month rotating EU presidency until the end of this month, favours Verhofstadt as the next President of the European Commission.

EU governments are set to decide at a meeting in Brussels at the end of the week who will head the next Commission.

The news, if confirmed, makes Verhofstadt’s already strong candidacy look even stronger.

EU heavyweights Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor, and Jacques Chirac, the President of France, have both said they want the Belgian Liberal to get the job. 

The biggest fly in the ointment as far as Verhofstadt is concerned is likely to be UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Despite earlier press reports hinting that Blair would not block Verhofstadt’s bid, UK officials now seem to be suggesting – off the record of course – that London does not want the Belgian Prime Minister to head the Commission.

The UK line is that Verhofstadt is too much of a federalist.

It also emerged on Wednesday that Verhofstadt has paid a lightning visit to Poland.

He arrived in Warsaw on Tuesday night and returned to Belgium on Wednesday.

The official reason for his trip was to discuss the forthcoming EU summit with his Polish counterpart Marek Belka.

But speculation is rife that Verhofstadt also used the trip to bolster his bid for the Commission job.

Poland has not yet backed anyone for the post and the support of the biggest of the EU’s new member states would be yet another plus point for Verhofstadt’s campaign.

The current European Commission President, Romano Prodi, will stand down in September.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news