Blair for President? EU’ve got to be joking

PUBLISHED: 13:53 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:17 25 August 2010

MEPS have given plans for a permanent European Council president the thumbs down and said they don t want Tony Blair to take on the role. If the Lisbon Treaty gets the go-ahead, a politician will be chosen to be president of the council for two-and-a-ha

MEPS have given plans for a permanent European Council president the thumbs down and said they don't want Tony Blair to take on the role.

If the Lisbon Treaty gets the go-ahead, a politician will be chosen to be president of the council for two-and-a-half years, replacing the current system where countries take turns at the top job for six months.

Rumours that Tony Blair had his eye on the new role were strengthened on Monday when Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would back him.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband also backed Blair last Sunday, saying: "My own view is that we need somebody who can do more than simply run through the agenda.

"We need someone who, when he or she lands in Beijing or Washington or Moscow, the traffic does need to stop and talks do need to begin at a very, very high level.

"Europe has suffered from the lack of that clarity."

But London MEPs told the Times that, although the current system depends on which country takes over, they don't want to see it changed.

Conservative MEP Syed Kamall refused to say which countries were not good at holding the presidency but did say Sweden, currently in the role, is doing a "fantastic job", like the Czechs before that.

He added: "It depends on who is in charge. I am against further European integration. My concern is that you have got a president who lends the EU the credibility of a state.

"The fact that Tony Blair promised a referendum, and we did not have that referendum, shows a complete lack of democratic legitimacy."

But the former university lecturer refused to say who he would like to see take up the post.

The new role will only be created if the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to streamline the way the EU is run, is ratified by all 27 member states, with the Czech Republic being the only country yet to sign up.

On Tuesday, the Czech Constitutional Court was due to hear a case brought by 17 Eurosceptic senators who say the treaty would create a superstate, and as such infringes Czech sovereignty. If the court rules the treaty is legal under Czech law, then pressure on President Vaclav Klaus to sign it will increase. London's Green MEP Jean Lambert said some of the larger states have not delivered when they have been head of the council.

She said: "I have to question the job description if Tony Blair looks like a strong candidate.

"I'm not yet convinced that we need the revamped president role, especially if it ends up strengthening the power of the European Council rather than the European Parliament.

"So far, the job description for the post hasn't been clearly defined so there are still questions over whether the role-holder is intended to be the public face of the EU or will focus on making the system work better.

"My preferred candidate would be Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights), who is experienced and strong on human rights, as well as trade and its effect on development and climate change.

"She has the moral strength, dignity and sense of positive vision that I want to see in the president."

Conservative foreign affairs spokesman and MEP Dr Charles Tannock said: "If a heavyweight candidate like Tony Blair is selected as EU President by the 27 heads of state and government, then he will turn the office into something even more powerful than the formal treaty powers concede.

"I don't deny Blair's skills as a politician and orator on the international scene but believe his appointment will cause resentment by the British people if, having just got rid of the Labour government at the next general election, Prime Minster Cameron will have to cut deals with a President Blair in Brussels.

"I have no favourite candidate but if one of the weaker contenders, such as Jean-Claude Juncker (Prime Minister of Luxembourg)or Jan Peter Balkenende (Prime Minister of Netherlands) is successful it will then be much easier for the incoming Conservative government to do business with."

At the time of going to press, the capital's Liberal Democrat and Labour MEPs were unavailable to comment.

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