Q&A Timetable on Blair’s (& Others’) EU Dream – How Soon Will They Know? Soon.
Comment at end
5th November, 2009
IS BALKENENDE A SERIOUS RIVAL TO BLAIR?
THE LADY’S NOT FOR TURNING … Her Head
The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende has something in common with Tony Blair. Neither is a declared candidate for the EU presidency job. In fact Balkenende has denied his candidacy repeatedly. His coyness may have something to do with the other thing he has in common with Mr Blair. Both of them dread the humiliation of being rejected by The Lady.
Put aside whether Germany SHOULD have this power of patronage rejection or acceptance; the cookie seems to have crumbled that way. Ms Merkel, far more it seems than France’s Mr Sarkozy (who also holds large voting power), realises her king-maker status right now. She is evidently playing it for all it’s worth.
Oooh, the intoxication that power wields…
… down, boys.
According to NRC Handelsblad, Balkenende is “more Chairman than President”. Merkel’s eyes, it suggests, are turning more to a ‘chairman’ than to a ‘president’.
Jan Peter Balkenende
WHAT THE PRESS & PAPERS SAY
1. Today’s Telegraph says that Tony Blair has been calling Merkel & Sarkozy in fight for EU presidency
2. Who Is Van Rompuy? Thoughts and comments on the Benelux candidates.
4. Dutch News: ‘Balkenende’s EU chances shrink‘
5. Reuters article by European Policy columnist Paul Taylor discounts Tony Blair but suggests we take our pick from 6 others. Mr Taylor has some interesting thoughts on Balkenende:
Taylor: “DISTINCT LACK OF ENTHUSIASM IN BERLIN”
“I wrote on this blog last week that Jan-Peter Balkenende … seemed well placed because he is a grey man with few sworn enemies in Europe. Balkenende supported the Iraq war, but not as actively as Blair. Dutch troops did not fight to topple Saddam Hussein. An independent inquiry headed by a retired judge is now investigating how the government came to support the war when its own intelligence service doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Balkenende has made coalitions with almost everyone, including the far-right anti-immigrant Pim Fortuyn List which entered parliament in 2002 after its founder was assassinated. His seven years in office have been marked by a sharp rise in xenophobia and Euroscepticism in the Netherlands. He lost a referendum on the EU constitution in 2005. He has made no notable contribution to the EU, nor shown any particular interest in European affairs. He did raise hackles, particularly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, by promising parliament in 2005 he would win a 1 billion euro annual reduction in the Dutch EU contribution and negotiating stubbornly until he achieved that aim. That may explain the distinct lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy in Berlin.”
WHAT’S THE BETTING?
It depends. As far as this site’s favourite is concerned (Tony Blair) the UK Polling Report website reports this:
The full tables for ICM’s poll at the weekend are now up on their website here. It gives me a chance to go back and look properly at the questions on whether people support Tony Blair becoming the EU President. Up until now we’ve had some YouGov polls showing support and opposition evenly split, and this ICM poll showing a majority opposed. The reason for the difference is quite interesting.
ICM asked if people were in favour or against Blair becoming President of the EU. 36% were in favour, 53% were opposed, 11% didn’t know. In contrast, when YouGov asked they gave people the options of saying they supported Tony Blair, or that they opposed him and would rather the President came from another EU country (my emphasis). While support for Blair isn’t much difference between ICM (36%) and YouGov (31% and 38%), YouGov found much lower opposition to Blair.
It suggests the contrast is down to fact that people ICM is picking up everyone who opposes Blair, while YouGov only got people who oppose him so much that they would rather have someone from another EU state.
The above referred to the Times poll showing that 43% of Brits would say YES to Pres Blair. Also to last weekend’s Telegraph ICM poll showing Blair’s support at 36%. Disregard for a moment the provisos from UK Polling Report quoted above. Considering that according to some – “everyone in Britain HATES him”, I reckon 36% is a great start!
(position at 22:30, 4th Nov) – Rompuy – 6/4; Blair – 4/1; Balkenende 5/1 & Juncker 5/1. Compared to yesterday’s betting, Blair has moved up one place to 2nd favourite, and Balkenende down to joint third favourite with Juncker. (Yesterday, 3rd Nov – Van Rompuy, from Balkenende, from Blair.)
Jan Peter Balkenende (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈjɑn ˈpetər ˈbɑɫkənɛndə] ( listen)) (born May 7, 1956) is a Dutch politician of the Christian Democratic Appeal party and since July 22, 2002 the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Currently leading his Fourth cabinet, which is scheduled to be in office until 2011. Balkenende has been mentioned for the post of President of the European Council.  
At my 7th October post – ‘Why Europe may/should choose Blair as EU Council President’ a Dutch anti-Iraq war commenter said this:
“I am from the Netherlands. And I know that Balkenende would be a very wrong choice to become President of the European Council.
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.
A dutch soldier in Iraq fired his gun in the air during a riot. At that time an Iraqi male fell to the ground, apparently wounded or death, nobody knows. The same day an Iraqi male was buried. Maybe the same person, maybe another. The dutch soldier was arrested for murder by the dutch prosecutors office. Then there were endless trials against this soldier. In the end, each and every judge did acquit him from every charge and the dutch authorities had to pay him a great lot of money.
And now the big question. The Netherlands were in war with Iraq. During that war a soldier was attacked in the back by the dutch prosecutors office. Were was prime-minister Balkenende when this happened? This is of course a rhetorical question. He was were he is always when we need him: hiding in his tower, playing Harry Potter.
And now a question for the readers of this. And this question is NOT rhetorical.
Do you want such a person to be the leader of the European Union? Do you want Balkenende as your “president”?
I do not know if Blair would be a very good choice. But I have seen enough from Blair, that he would not abandon his own soldiers during a war that he himself choose for them. If you lead your soldiers into a war, you have to stand behind them, support them. As he once said:
“Backbone, not back down”.
Or in other words:
“Backbone, not back down, is what the European Union needs.”
There is no place in European government for a wimp and traitor like Balkenende. If his own soldiers can not rely on him, can we?
Yes, I realise this is only one man’s opinion. And I know too that that kind of anti-war leader opining can be found about Tony Blair too. I did NOT realise though that the Netherlands too were in the midst of an Iraq war inquiry. So Blair is NOT the only EU leader who may be under the spotlight and asked to explain his role in that war in the next year or two. Nor did I realise that Balkenende did not take as principled a position on Iraq as did Blair.
The latter has always insisted, “I did what I thought was right” and “I would take the same decision again.”