Coalition parties say no top EU post for Dutch PM

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Coalition parties say Jan Peter Balkenende is the “face of the cabinet” and should stay in The Hague in times of economic crisis.

The Hague – As EU leaders gather Thursday to weigh candidates to head a new-look European Union, news that the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende named as one of the front runners for the post has been met with much opposition.

The Labour party and the Christian Union party from Balkenende’s coalition government are against the prime minister leaving for the top job in Brussels. The newly-created post of EU president will replace the current rotating presidency once the Lisbon Treaty has been adopted.

In an interview public broadcaster NOS, Labour party chair Mariette Hamer said Balkenende is the "face of the cabinet" and should stay in The Hague, particularly with the Netherlands in a period of economic crisis.

Christian Union party chairman Arie Slob agreed and pointed out that Balkenende has previously dismissed talk of him changing jobs as "nonsense".

The chairman of Balkenende's Christian Democrat party, Pieter van Geel, said he was not prepared to speculate about the topic.

In addition, the opposition parties are calling for new elections to be held if the prime minister leaves for the top EU job.

The job, with a term of up to five years, does not yet exist as the treaty has still to be ratified by the Czech Republic, following a court ruling on an appeal next week.

Meanwhile, London Wednesday hit back forcibly at suggestions from Luxembourg that Britain's refusal to adopt the euro currency should bar Blair from running.

"If your measurements were how much a member state contributes to the EU budget or how willing they are to put their soldiers' lives at risk to protect the EU security, then the picture would be rather different," said a senior British diplomat.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the first candidate to throw his hat publicly into the ring on Tuesday, argues that the president should come from a country deeply tied to the EU.

Despite the Netherlands' official stance that it is not putting forward a candidate, Balkenende's name continues to be mentioned as the third contender.

But consultations among the leaders, whose meeting will be clouded by differences over how to help poor countries fight climate change, can only be finalised if the long-awaited Lisbon reform treaty enters force.

There is little chance that a choice will be made at the Brussels summit of 27 EU leaders Thursday as nothing can be finalised before the Lisbon reform treaty enters force. Instead, the meeting is expected to be clouded by differences over how to help poor countries fight climate change.

Radio Netherlands / AFP / Expatica

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