Mr Who for EU president? EU seeks anyone but Blair

By Paul Taylor
October 29, 2009

blairWho will be the first president of the European Council of EU leaders? Anyone but Tony Blair. That is the only clear message to emerge from a European Union summit, where the appointments of the EU’s two new senior office-holders is not on the agenda but is on everyone’s mind.

The appointment process is typical of the surreal way in which the 27-nation bloc does business. The job is poorly defined in the Lisbon treaty reforming the EU’s institutions, which is expected to come into force in the next few weeks.  But it is clear that most leaders are looking for a consensus-building summit chairman rather than a high-profile president of Europe.

There are no officially declared candidates. But Blair has been the front-runner for months, with the public backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and of the British government. He was not in Brussels on Thursday, but his name was at the centre of debate in the summit corridors, with many people determined to kill his phantom candidacy off.

Before the summit began, his erstwhile European Socialist comrades agreed, according to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, that they would prefer the EU foreign policy chief job to go to a socialist. That effectively ruled out the presidency for Blair, since the Socialists have no chance of getting both jobs.

Veteran Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker meanwhile announced he is available for the top post even though he acknowledged he had little chance of getting it. Juncker’s kamikaze candidacy looks like a suicide mission to blow Blair out of the race. The two have been engaged in a long personal vendetta fuelled by Blair’s blocking of Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s bid for the European Commission presidency in 2004, and his veto of an EU budget deal brokered by Juncker in 2005.

In British eyes, Juncker personfies “old Europe” — a federalist from a tiny country which prospers as a sort of giant safe-deposit box at the heart of a Franco-German Europe. For Juncker, Blair embodies London’s arrogant detachment from the EU. Despite his pro-European rhetoric, the founder of New Labour never brought his country into the euro single currency or the Schengen zone of passport-free travel in 10 years in power. “This is not about personal glory or an extended ego trip,” Juncker told the daily Luxembourg Wort in a clear swipe at Blair’s undeclared bid.

The likelihood is that neither Blair nor Juncker will find broad enough support among EU leaders, effectively cancelling each other out. That will open the way for a more consensual, insipid figure without either Blair’s globe-trotting stardom or Juncker’s federalist outlook. Several such potential candidates were preeening themselves at the summit.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, a centre-right Harry Potter look-alike devoid of charisma, was doing his best to charm Sarkozy and Merkel during the public photo opportunities. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose second-fiddle role to Sarkozy means he rarely attends EU summits, was seated beaming in the limelight at the summit table in place of the French foreign minister.

Away from the summit, former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen published a timely article in the Financial Times saying the president’s job should be about interrnal consensus-building rather than external representation (in other words – “me, not Blair”). The Baltic prime ministers agreed to seeksupport for former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga as EU president.

In reality, the choice is likely to boil down to one of a handful of leaders sitting in the room. My money is on Balkenende as the grey man with the fewest sworn enemies. Under his premiership, the Netherlands has turned increasingly Eurosceptical and voted against ratifying the EU constitution in a referendum in 2005. But unlike Britain, it is a full member of all EU policies.

That may seem a pretty thin qualification to be the first president of the European Council,  but curiously, no one in Brussels seems to hold Dutch Euroscepticism against Balkenende the way they hold British Euroscepticism against Blair.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Throughout his time as PM Blair placed himself above his cabal, his cabal above his party and his party above the country he was supposed to serve, the EU – whatever its merits or problems – will do well to steer clear of this self serving man.

Posted by Edward Green | Report as abusive

We dutch people said ‘NO’ to the new European treaty. Then Balkenende decided, that we should not be allowed to vote again after the politicians made same cosmetic changes to the treaty. Then Balkenende said ‘YES’ to giving away our rights and our sovereignty against our explicit will. So the people of the Netherlands said ‘NO’. And Balkenende is guilty of High Treason.

Europe and the USA have a very big mouth about democracy, elections, honesty, human rights. But is there democracy in the Netherlands? Have the people a say in their own affairs? Or do we need to go to The Hague with a guillotine, before somebody listens?

The voters are running away from traditional parties towards new extremist parties. They have very good reasons for doing so. The traditional politicians have betrayed us so many times, that nobody takes them serious anymore.

I am from the Netherlands. And I know that Balkenende would be a very wrong choice. In the Netherlands he has been absent in each and every crisis. Only when the opposition forces him to an opinion, he comes up with some kind of statement. He gives the impression of someone suffering from a clinical depression.

Beside this, he is a child! When he first met Bush jr., the former president of the USA, he behaved like a small boy that got a compliment of a headmaster. When he was patted on his shoulder by mister president, he was out of his wits from joy. In the Netherlands we made jokes about this, but we were extremely embarrassed. To please this Bush, he dragged us in an illegal war with Iraq. When the new coalition for his present government was formed, he demanded, that there would be no interrogation about this war. So we, the people, are not allowed to know what really let to this war.

10/27 2005 there was a fire in a prison for persons seeking asylum. One asylum-seeker smoked a cigarette and the building burned down. Eleven people burned to death, many were severely burned. The person who smoked a cigarette was prosecuted for murder and found guilty. But who was to blame? The fire brigade previously tried to close down the facility because it was a fire-hazard. The council of the town were it was located agreed and made a decision to close it down. This council decision then was overruled by the minister of justice, Piet Hein Donner. For this, he had to resign and new elections were held. In the next government Balkenende choose this same Donner as minister of social affairs.

It is quite easy to put all the blame on a person seeking asylum. He can not defend himself and it is easy to kick him around. But the truth is: Piet Hein Donner is guilty of eleven counts of burn-murder. He should be in jail. But in the Netherlands he is minister of Social Affairs. With many thanks to his associate Balkenende.

This same Balkenende demanded, that the christian god should be put in the European constitution. He wanted to turn the European constitution into a gross violation of our constitution and of human rights. That is one of the reasons why we, the dutch, said ‘NO’. And that is why we don’t trust Balkenende. The Netherlands signed a treaty about the human rights. Religious discrimination is a violation of our human rights. Balkenende is just an oath breaker, a Christian bigot that violates our human rights and who wants to impose his dirty superstition upon us.

Keep in mind that we did not elect Balkenende. A vast majority of the dutch doesn’t want him. He is the leader of the Christian Democrats, not of the Netherlands. Politicians made him the unwanted head of state. And we do despise the whole political system for it.

Now there are speculations that European politicians will give him an important position in Europe. If these politicians want to take another step towards a European revolution, this would be a great step. If I were one of them, I would make sure that my head is still firmly attached to my shoulders. Two centuries ago there was a famous French surgeon, who invented an instrument to cure ‘Mad Human Disease’. We have an outbreak of this awful disease in The Hague among politicians and civil servants. The name of this surgeon? Monseigneur de Guillotine. His surgical instrument cures everything.

Of course I write this tongue in cheek. But make no mistake. Politicians in many European countries seem to be in a hurry to reach the end of the road towards a very bloody revolution.

Mr Who…. i’m surprised we’ve not got any feminist activists ranting on here.

Has there been a single suggestion of a woman getting the job??

Posted by iain | Report as abusive

Vaira Vike-Freiberga is mentioned in the article, and Mary Robinson has also been in the news as a potential candidate.

BTW, I think Balkenende would do a fine job.

Posted by BP | Report as abusive

Any President will be wasted on the EU when what it really needs is a good kicking.

Posted by Jimmer XXX | Report as abusive

Mr Blair is not the right person for the job. Mr Brown is backing the wrong person as usual he is also destined for political oblivion soon in our next election.

Please can we have elected leaders with a mandate to govern, also can we see the agenda first before we vote for them. Europe is a new democracy having been ruled in the last 80 years by dictators in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Greece, Romania and Jugoslavia just to name a few countries. The development of this new democracy must be by is people and not by a bunch of polititians in Brussels who are not accountable. “One person one vote once or vote again and again until you give us the answer we want in Brussels!

I do not want Mr Blair representing me we are ashamed of whathe did in Iraq.

Posted by Richard Loraine-Smith | Report as abusive

“Europe is a new democracy….” says Richard.

I beg to differ. Democracies are populated by people who choose to live in them. The British people have not chosen to become part of Europe. They have never been given a choice.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

As far as Blair being eliminated is concerned, tens of millions of people all over the UK, including me, are now saying “thank f**k for that”. Can we please now get on with running our own country?

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Is it British Eurosceptisim alone that Europeans (and others worldwide) hold against Mr Blair, I think his duplicitous actions that led to the invasion of Iraq six years ago causing death,destruction and destitution would give the majority of people concern over his ability to honestly represent anyone, let alone a continent.

Balkenende would be OK. He is not exactly our answer to Obama, but he is smart, will not frighten anyone in the european union, is consensus minded and doesn’t have a important hidden agenda, apart from the fact that he is probably willing to cut his arm off to get out of smallish Dutch politics.

Posted by kees rooshuif | Report as abusive

Say as you all wish. A truly democratic British government would have given us a referendum on this truly historic matter, following which our comments would have had a completely different weight. What a waste of our history. Only the complete buffoon Blair could have brought us to this point in time, assisted by an equally incompetent and unelected acolyte,and his adherents.

Our voice on the world stage? I hear only an echo, echo, echo…….

Posted by Libra | Report as abusive

[...] a Dutch commenter at Reuters: We dutch people said ‘NO’ to the new European treaty. Then Balkenende decided, that we should [...]

All I see here is Europhobia! A United Europe under one banner is the only way forward if we are to avoid being marginalised to edge of the global market and carry any weight what so ever in global affairs. We need someone charismatic at the helm who has some kind of standing and that can be reckoned with. Blair is the ideal candidate regardless of what he’s done in the past. Berlusconi is ok for the Italians, Sarkozi for the French neither have a sparkling background. Give him the job.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Tony gave away £billions of our hard won rebate to add to the £billions we already pay into the economic black hole that is the corruption ridden democratically deficient eussr, and then showed utter contempt for the people of Britain to sign the constitution/lisbon treaty without the promised referrendum, his Mate Brown then ratified the treaty to hand over the running of our country to the unelected commission of the foreign eussr, and for what, the promise made by the foreigners merkel and the french poison dwarf that Tony would be the first prsident of europe, now they have the ratification Tony is getting the cold shoulder and will never be President of the corruption ridden democratically deficient eussr after all.

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive

I must say Blair has such an amazing ego that he is and has been in total denial of the world events and his doing in office, for many years. Not only against the wishes of the people of this country ‘Not to take our troops in Iraq. After leaving No 10 and apparently becoming a ‘Peace keeper Ambassador’ for the Middle East,have we heard anything about this posting, not to my knowledge, has he done anything for the peace in the Middle East? Unless I have missed the news for many monthS, the answer is NO. Now to add insult to injury he is now seeing himself as the President for the EU Commission, I have never heard Blair being really ‘pro’ EU anyway,again EGO is talking over again. I think this time his popularity is rather low, nobody really will forget this man for siding up with Bush and taking us to Irap. How can anybody trust this man ever again. Now of course Brown has to ridicule himself yet again in backing Blair, a man he wanted out of his way to enter No 10 which of course he will leave very quickly. I wonder next where Blair’s ego will take him, as far as I feel as far as possible from all of us. I can only hope.

To John, and others of his ilk, all you see is Europhobia? Well, examine the reasoning behind this stance and you will truly see where Europhobia begins.

Do you really wish to inflict the imbecile Blair upon us given the overwhelming and incontrivertible evidence that now makes him a pariah in our midst ?

Read and understand the comments made by Barry, and catherine.williams et al and try and see through the drivel that is being put out in support of this man

Give us then your detailed reasoning for wishing to impose Blair,an unconscionable burden,on others who with good reason see things differently, and with excellent cause.

Posted by Libra | Report as abusive

I agree with Jason,

has the Pound been linked (in-)to the Euro yet ?

“In British eyes, Juncker personfies “old Europe” — a federalist from a tiny country which prospers as a sort of giant safe-deposit box at the heart of a Franco-German Europe.” :-

When I last visited this would have been an accurate description of the UK with all its riches and being a massive global hub of money being passed around.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive

Blair or no one, history will prove that his only failings were his inability to concentrate more power to his own arm rather than the careerist nonentities he had to work with (cf Brown).

Despite having to drag a nation that aspires ever more to match the peerless ignorance of the U.S population , his realignment of pragmatic politics was a joy to watch.

He gets things done without the machine noticing and his sleight of hand when it comes to directing people to do the right thing despite their stupidity is unmatched.

President of Europe is too small for the Blair, Emperor of Earth would suit.

Posted by Paul Arkle | Report as abusive

I presume the writer of comment at 11:30 hours was just joking…..please say yes! A Blair = A B LIAR end of argument: it is the opinion of most properly informed people he has proved himself totally unsuited to a position of importance through his own ideas of self-importance. We ned someone who cares about UK plc not themselves plc…..

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive