Fri Oct 30th, 2009 at 10:21:58 AM EST
The British press is reporting that Blair's chances for getting the European Council Presidency are all but over. From the Guardian:
Sarkozy, the French president, and Merkel, the German chancellor, discussed the new EU president at a dinner at the Elysée palace on Wednesday. They are understood to have agreed that the post should be filled from the main centre-right EPP grouping, which brings together the parties currently ruling most EU countries.
The French made clear in Brussels last night that Blair was losing their support. Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's most senior foreign affairs adviser, said: "The UK is not in the eurozone, nor in the Schengen [free travel area in the EU] and it has a number of opt outs. These are not advantageous in this search for a candidate."
In a separate Guardian piece, Angela Merkel is said to have delivered the final blow, without having ever gone on the record in any way.
Senior German sources said that at the crucial dinner on Wednesday evening, the two leaders did not discuss names for the two plum new posts of Europe president and foreign minister. They did, however, discuss the mandate for the presidential post. The Germans made clear that Merkel had no problem recommending a contender from a small EU member state.
The focus is now seemingly on Balkenende. One reason he might get the Presidency that hasn't been mentioned in the press is that it would take the Netherlands out of the running for one of the main economy posts in the Commission, which France and Germany have set their sights on.
The Guardian also reports that Zapatero has said that he's in favour of a socialist in the post of High Representative rather than European Council President (see koksapir's diary on Miliband) and in other news, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said that the decision will be taken in consensus. From the Telegraph:
Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini delivered a blow to Mr Blair's hopes when he said that the choice of future president should be "unanimous and the result of consensus" among the 27 EU member states.
Frattini and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had previously indicated they were warm towards Blair's candidacy.
"That's true," Frattini added, "but the entry into the fray of Mr Juncker and (Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter) Balkenende changes the picture," he said.
"We cannot imagine a divided Europe. We must find a consensus."
The framework conditions are that the President of the Council will come from the EPP and the High Representative will come from the PES. Unfortunately, they seem likely to be two men.