President of the European Council

President of the European Council

] as there is no clear idea of how the post would evolve. One body of thought is the President would stick to the administrative role as outlined by the treaty, a standard bearer who would simply chair meetings and ensure the smooth running of the body and its policies. This would attract semi-retired leaders seeking a fitting climax to their career and would leave most work to the civil service rather than wield power within the institutions.cite web|last=Iey Berry|first=Peter Sain|date=2007-11-16|publisher=EU Observer|title= [Comment] The new EU president" standard bearer or shaker?|url=|accessdate=2007-11-18]

However another opinion would see a more pro-active President within the Union and speaking for it abroad. This post would hence be quickly fashioned into a "de facto" "President of Europe" and, unlike the first model, would be seen on the world stage as speaking for the EU. Persons connected to this position would be more charismatic leaders.

The Treaty of Lisbon doesn't define a nomination process for the President of the Council. Candidates are discussed as politicians bring them into play. At the final Council meeting on the Reform Treaty in Lisbon, on 19 November 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy set off public speculation on candidates by naming Tony Blair and Jean-Claude Juncker, and praising both as worthy candidates,cite web|title=CONFERENCE DE PRESSE DU PRESIDENT DE LA REPUBLIQUE, M. NICOLAS SARKOZY|work= |publisher=France diplomatie|date=2007-10-19|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] but France has stated it as not officially supporting anybody for the job.cite web|last=Vucheva|first=Elitsa|date=2008-02-27|publisher=EU Observer|title=France says it has no preferred EU president candidate|url=|accessdate=2008-02-29]

Bertie Ahern

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's reputation for economic turnaround and as a proven peacemaker may help Ahern become a viable candidate for the post of European Union president, a job set to be created next year. The former Taoiseach of Ireland has been mentioned numerous times for the role. [cite web|last=Mahony|first=Honor|authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Ireland speculates on Ahern becoming EU president|work= |publisher=EU Observer|date=2007-08-27|url=|format= |doi= |accessdate=2007-07-12] Major Bookmaker Bet 24, puts the odds of Ahern filling the role at 10-1. [ [ News ] ] Several highlights of his tenure that could help his candidacy include:

* Economy - Ahern helped the Irish economy more than double in size. [ [ Teagasc - Population And Agricultural Change In Rural Ireland, 1991 To 2002 ] ] [ [ How Ireland Became the Celtic Tiger ] ] His term in office has been recognized as a period of economic growth in Ireland, known as the Celtic Tiger. Increased prosperity and a better standard of living were the main results of the Celtic Tiger economy, alongside low levels of unemployment. [ [ Irish Economy ] ]

* Peace - Ahern worked to settle a conflict that spanned three decades and claimed about 3,500 lives. He helped negotiate the Belfast Agreement, commonly called the Good Friday Agreement, in which the British and Irish Governments and most Northern Irish political parties established an "exclusively peaceful and democratic" framework for power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

* European experience - His 2004 Presidency of the European Council, during which he brought EU leaders together to agree a European Constitution, there was recovery in EU-US relations, and the EU formally admitted 10 new members.

* Crisis handling - His reaction to the 2001 Foot & Mouth Disease Crisis resulted in only a handful of cases reported in Ireland and the government was praised for their intervention. [ [ BBC News | EUROPE | Foot-and-mouth in Europe ] ]

* Political experience - In June 2007, Ahern became the second longest-serving political leader among the 27 European Union member states. [For EU leadership seniority ranking, see list in European Council. Jean-Claude Juncker who was elected Prime Minister of Luxembourg for a 5-year term in the 2004 election has been in office since 1995.] For EU leadership seniority ranking, see list in European Council.

* Health advancement - On 29 March 2004 Mr Ahern's government was the first in the world to impose a national smoking ban. [ [ - Ireland's smoking ban reaps benefits ] ]

Mr Ahern's resignation as Taoiseach in May 2008 was prompted by ongoing investigations by a tribunal of inquiry into financial irregularities surrounding the former Taoisech, many of which date to the early 1990s. Though Mr Ahern insists he has not received any corrupt payments at any time, the investigation continues. There may be a reluctance in some European countries to support the candidacy of someone who may become embroiled in further investigations during his term. [ [ BBC NEWS | Europe | A 'George Washington' for Europe ] ]

Tony Blair

The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has also been mentioned. Blair was one of the architects of a permanent presidentcite web|last=Grice|first=Andrew|authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Blair emerges as candidate for 'President of Europe'|work= |publisher=The Independent|date=2007-10-20|url=|format= |doi= |accessdate=2007-10-21] and has been touted for the job as far back as 2002, before the signing of the constitution. Rumours of his appointment have re-emerged since his resignation as Prime Minister, and from British politics, in 2007.cite web|last=Parker|first=George|title=UK PM 'a serious candidate'|publisher=Financial Times|year=2007|url=|accessdate=2007-06-27 ] cite web|last=Hall|first=Ben|authorlink= |coauthors= |title=New post of EU chief tempts Blair|work= |publisher=Financial Times|date=2007-05-03|url=|format= |doi= |accessdate=2007-07-12] cite web|last=Open Europe|title=Blair for President of Europe!|year=2007|url=|accessdate=2007-06-27 ]

Gordon Brown, Blair's successor as British Prime Minister, expressed his belief that Blair would make an excellent President. However, he noted it was premature to discuss candidates before the treaty was approved.

In addition, Tony Blair's nomination may be opposed by small states, who believe the large states have enough of their people at the top. An online petition ( was also set up against Blair's candidacy. Diplomats and leading politicians in a number of states are opposing him.cite web|last=Traynor|first=Ian|coauthors=David Gow|title=Stop Blair: ambition to lead Europe hits fierce opposition|work= |publisher=The Guardian|date=2008-02-20|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-23] In the European Parliament, Blair faces opposition from the Socialists and some Christian Democrats [cite web|title=Rote Rebellion gegen Tony Blair|work= |publisher=Die Presse|date=2008-01-17|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] who have formed a cross-party group against his candidacy. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is considered to be opposed to the candidacy, citing her words that the Council President should be "a man of balance"cite web|title=Poker um Europas neuen Chefposten|work= |publisher=Hamburger Abendblatt|date=2008-01-30|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] In April 2008, France, Germany and the United Kingdom made a deal that they would not back a candidate opposed by any one of them. Due to opposition from Germany, Blair may be ruled out.cite web|last=Merrick|first=Jane|authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Brown deal bars Blair from top EU job|work= |publisher=The Independent|date=2008-04-20|url=|format= |doi= |accessdate=2008-04-20]

In France, Blair faces opposition from the French Socialist Party,Mahony, Honor (2008-01-14) [ Blair sets out EU vision amid talk of top European job] EU Observer] French conservative elder statesmen Valéry Giscard d'Estaing [cite web|title=Valéry Giscard d'Estaing ne veut pas de Tony Blair à la tête de l'Europe|last= |first= |work= |publisher=Le Monde|date=2008-01-17|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] and Édouard Balladur. [cite web|title=A remarkable man, but no EU president|last=Balladur|first=Édouard|work= |publisher=The Times|date=2008-02-08|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] Other commentators interpreted Sarkozy's public support for Blair as a diversion tactic: according to them, Blair "stands no chance"cite web|title=Der große Jobpoker in der EU|last=Winkler|first=Stefan|work= |publisher=Kleine Zeitung|date=2008-01-16|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] of being appointed and his failure would have the effect of disqualifying him for other top EU jobs, too.cite web|title=Állítsátok meg Tony Blairt!|last=Szőcs|first=László|work= |publisher=Népszabadság|date=2008-02-11|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14]

A spokesman for Tony Blair has not ruled out Blair accepting the post, saying he was concentrating on his current role in the Middle Eastcite web|title=Brown backs Blair for EU president|last=Summers|first=Deborah|work= |publisher=The Guardian|date=2007-10-19|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-05-04] Some believe he is unlikely to take the position as it comes with few powers. On 12 January 2008 Blair was invited to attend a rally for Sarkozy's party, the Union for a Popular Movement. There he appeared, according to some commentators, to launch a bid for the Presidency.

The following month it was reported that Blair was warming to the idea, so long as the job was not to be dominated by chairing meetings and brokering deals, as formally outlined by the treaty. Reports also said that Blair would take the job only if "it comes with real powers to intervene in defense and trade affairs" [cite web|title=I'll be president of Europe if you give me the power - Blair|work= |publisher=The Guardian|date=2008-02-02|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] Under the treaties, these areas are the prerogatives of the European Commission, Council and High Representative.

Reports from early May indicated that Blair had lost the support of Sarkozy, as well, thus most likely barring him from getting the post [ [ BBC NEWS | UK | Sarkozy 'non' to Blair presidency ] ] even though, in a July 2008 poll, he is the candidate most supported by European businesses to take the role. [ [ Business favours Blair as EU president] ]

Jean-Claude Juncker

A second oft-mentioned name for the first full-time President is the current PrimeMinister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker. Supporters see Juncker as experienced in EU negotiations and committed to European integration, and a guarantor for small member states.

Juncker is seen as a key mediator in the agreement over the Treaty of Maastricht, and the main author of its parts on the Eurocite web|last=Hausmann|first=Hartmut|title=Gordischer Finanzknoten nur schwer zu lockern|work= |publisher=Das Parlament|date=2005-06-20|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . He is also credited with saving the agreement on the Stability and Growth Pactcite web|last=Fischer|first=Marlies|title="Mister Euro" Ratspräsident Juncker hat schon so manche EU-Kuh vom Eis geholt.|work= |publisher=Hamburger Abendblatt|date=2008|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . In 2004, he became the permanent President of the Eurogroup, the group of finance ministers of the member states in the Eurozone.

During the drafting of the failed European Constitution, Juncker has been a leading opponent of the creation of a strong full-time Council President, and was thus instrumental in "massively clipping the wings"cite web|title=Jean-Claude Juncker: Wissen nicht, wohin die Reise geht|work= |publisher=Profil/Portal of the Government of Luxembourg|date=2003-06-23|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] of the post relative to the original plans of the "ABC-camp" (Aznar, Blair, Chiraccite web|last=Schild|first=Joachim|title="Power-Play" or Declining Power? German European Diplomacy Risks Losing Influence|work= |publisher=Deutsche-Aussenpolitik.De|date=2004-02-12|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-21] ). He was concerned that a Parliament-independent Council President would usurp the powers of the Parliament-dependent Commission President. Small EU member states also saw the new post as a way for the large members to gain power at their expense [cite web|last=Bennett|first=Rosemary|title=Convention backs Blair's plan for EU presidency|work= |publisher=The Times|date=2003-04-17|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . To allay these fears, before the failure of the Constitution in French and Dutch referendums, Mr. Juncker has been intensely lobbied to accept the job, but he insisted to fulfill the promise he just made to his voters in Luxembourg to serve another full term.

The European Council agreed on the final draft of the successor of the failed Constitution, the Reform Treaty, on 19 October 2007. The same day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy brought up Juncker's name again in public. Juncker would reportedly enjoy the support of many national governments, as well as the Christian Democrats and Martin Schulz, the faction leader of the Socialists in the European Parliamentcite web|last=Schiltz|first=Christoph|title=Ringen um die Spitzenjobs in Europa|work= |publisher=Die Welt|date=2008-01-07|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . However, Mr. Juncker himself didn't want to decide on candidacy early.

French President Sarkozy's open endorsement of Blair in January 2008 led some politicians to come out with their endorsement for Juncker. For the German part of the EPP faction, MEP Werner Langen (EVP-ED/CDU) stated a lack of "European impulses" from Blair, and named Juncker as one of two possibilitiescite web|last= |first= |title=Werner Langen (EVP-ED/CDU): Blair fehlt Integrationskraft für Amt des EU-Ratspräsidenten|work= |publisher=CDU/CSU group in the EP|date=2008-01-21|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . Marielle de Sarnez (MoDem), vice-chair of ALDE, also endorsed him [cite web|title="On ne peut plus gérer Paris droite contre gauche"|work= |publisher=Le Parisien/Marielle de Sarnez|date=2008-01-20|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] .

Apart from Sarkozy, no members of national governments came out with clear endorsements in public. However, Juncker has reportedly a wider support than Blair [cite web|title=Name-Dropping Begins for EU's First President|work= |publisher=Der Spiegel|date=2008-01-28|url=,1518,531527,00.html|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] [cite web|last= |first= |title=Blair unlikely to get EU presidency|work= |publisher=Reuters|date=2008-02-05|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] . He is reportedly favoured by German chancellor Angela Merkelcite web|title=Tony Blair, EU-Präsident?|work= |publisher=Die Zeit|date=2008-01-21|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] , and French media consider as factor that Juncker is a "germanophile"cite web|last=Avril|first=Pierre|title=Grandes manœuvres à la tête de l'Europe|work= |publisher=Le Figaro|date=2008-01-18|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] . On 24 January 2008, it was announced that Juncker will receive the German Citizens' Order of Merit [cite web|title=Le "Deutscher Staatsbürgerpreis 2008" pour le Premier ministre Jean-Claude Juncker|work= |publisher=Portal of the Government of Luxembourg|date=2008-01-24|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] , the award of a private foundation [Staatsbürgerliche Stiftung Bad Harzburg e. V. [] ] , but at the award ceremony on 19 February 2008, Chancellor Merkel held the laudation herself [cite web|title=Laudatio von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel anlässlich der Verleihung des Deutschen Staatsbürgerpreises an den luxemburgischen Premierminister Jean-Claude Juncker|work= ||date=2008-02-19|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-20] . The laudation has been interpreted as implicit but open endorsementcite web|last=Proissl|first=Wolfgang|title=Beschossener Pudel|work= |publisher=Financial Times Deutschland|date=2008-02-21|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14] .

Some commentators even assume that Juncker is French President Sarkozy's real choice, too, and Blair is only a diversion tactic. On 12 February 2008, junior French minister for European affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet declared that the first Council President must come from the Eurozone and must be an "authentic European" who knows the workings of EU institutions, which has been interpreted as a circumscription of Junckercite web|url=|title=First EU president must be from euro zone|work= |publisher=Reuters/The Financial Express|date=2008-02-12|format= |accessdate=2008-02-18] .

Possible points against Juncker's candidacy are his potential conflict with European Commission leader Barroso, his health, and that he may face opposition from more Eurosceptic member state governments. Those favouring a strong and charismatic Council President also consider Juncker to be drab and not well known. There is also speculation that the two highest-profile candidates in the race, Juncker and Blair cancel each other out. [cite web|last=Waterfield|first=Bruno|title=Stop Blair campaign gathers pace in Europe|work= |publisher=The Telegraph|date=2008-02-07|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-02-14]

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the current Prime Minister of Denmark and was named as the top candidate by The Times in May 2008. [citeweb|title=Rasmussen as top candidate for EU Presidency |work= |publisher=The Times|date=2008-05-06|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-05-06]

Rasmussen has some problems with the four Danish exceptions, and his worst problem could be that France believes him to be more interested in the job as head of NATO [citeweb|title=Juncker, favori pour présider le Conseil européen |work= |publisher=Le Figaro|date=2008-05-06|url=|format= |accessdate=2008-05-06]

Other candidates

Aside from Ahern, Blair, Juncker and Rasmussen, there have been other suggestions for candidates including: former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former Chancellor of Austria Wolfgang Schüssel, former Tsar of Bulgaria and former Prime Minister of Bulgaria Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha [ [ Bulgaria's ex-tsar likely to bid for European Council president - People's Daily Online ] ] and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Italian right-wing politician Gianfranco Fini, leader of Alleanza Nazionale, endorsed former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar [cite web|title=Gianfranco Fini apuesta por José María Aznar como futuro presidente de la UE|work= |publisher=El País|date=2008-01-30|url= |accessdate=2008-02-18] .

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso may also be a candidate. Although know to be seeking a second term leading the Commission, he may try for the Council if he believed the job was to be bigger and better.cite web|last=Buck|first=Tobias|coauthors=George Parker|title=Barroso accused of currying favour with biggest states|date=2006-12-22|publisher=Financial Times|url=|accessdate=2007-11-26]

Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström has criticised the fact no women have been proposed, a symptom she claims is due to the behind the scenes selection process going already which is dominated by "old men". She dismisses the absence of female candidates being due to competence, claiming that former Irish President Mary Robinson, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and former Commissioner and MEP Emma Bonino are all sound candidates. Wallström claims she is not herself interested in any more high profile jobs.cite web|last=Küchler|first=Teresa|title=Margot Wallstrom fed up with EU 'reign of old men'|work= |publisher=EU Observer|date=2008-02-08|url=|format= |doi= |accessdate=2007-10-22] German Chancellor Angela Merkel is another female possibility, and her current term expires in 2009. She is also a leader from a large country that some smaller countries would not object to.cite web|last=Mardell|first=Mark|authorlink=Mark Mardell|coauthors= |title=Tony Blair and the race for the presidency|work= |publisher=BBC Newsdate=2008-02-06|url= |accessdate=2008-02-10]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Swedish Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Carl Bildt
President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski
Former_Tsar of Bulgaria and former Prime Minister of Bulgaria Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar López
President of Finland Tarja Halonen
Emma Bonino

ee also

*List of presidents of EU institutions


External links

* [ A 'George Washington' for Europe] - BBC News

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