Comment at end
6th November, 2009
MANDELSON ON STRONG LEADERSHIP & ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION
Peter Mandelson has been talking at a meeting of the Bruegel thinktank in Brussels today.
And the Times reports that both Brown and Mandelson are pushing for Blair as EU presidency as the race enters the home stretch.
Described as ‘leading a last-ditch effort to have Tony Blair elected as EU president as the diplomatic wrangling over the new post entered its final stages’, it is clear that the debate is centred around the constituency which counts.
The Prime Minister made the case for his predecessor in a conversation with Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, whose job it is to draw up a shortlist of candidates. Yesterday Mr Reinfeldt began a first round of “confessionals” — one-on-one talks with all 27 EU leaders.
Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, will pitch in with a speech in Brussels outlining his vision of the EU as a global player with a liberal economy led by a strong, international statesman.
His speech is a riposte to seven small EU countries that have implicitly attacked the candidacy of Mr Blair — one of the few candidates with star quality — by calling for the first president to be a chairman, not a chief.
This Guardian article reports on Mandelson’s call that the EU must not stifle investment. Above all, Mandelson is calling for strong EU leadership (Reuters)
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Business Secretary Peter Mandelson will call Friday for strong leadership of the European Union and outline his vision for revamping its economic policies.
Although Mandelson will not name Tony Blair in the speech, his comments could be seen as an attempt to revive the former prime minister’s chances of becoming the EU’s first long-term president.
Media say Prime Minister Gordon Brown has continued to promote Blair as a candidate, even though French President Nicolas Sarkozy has signalled that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not back him.
“The point I will keep coming back to today is that we have a problem of leadership in Europe and political willingness to drive change,” Mandelson will say, according to a text of the speech distributed to reporters in Brussels.
In the speech, to be delivered in the Belgian capital, he will call for “a new European leadership and a whole new magnitude of political cooperation.”
Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner, will also call for more innovation in business, a realignment of budget priorities and a “low carbon, high growth, high employment, banking-crisis-free future.”
He will also warn that EU plans to tighten regulation of hedge funds and private equity managers could choke off investments and deepen the global credit crunch.
MEMBER STATES SEEK CONSENSUS-BUILDER
Blair’s chances of becoming president of the Council of EU leaders have been hampered by other member states’ concerns that he backed the U.S-led war in Iraq and by their desire for a leader who can build consensus.
Although Blair’s chances have faded, Mandelson made clear to Brussels-based reporters in a video link-up from London on Thursday that the former prime minister was capable of securing compromises and building consensus.
“He brokered very radical change and reform in the Labour Party and built a consensus, and that was not easy. I saw him do the same in Northern Ireland,” he said of peace efforts under Blair.
The post of president for a renewable term of 2-1/2 years is being created under the Lisbon treaty, which will reform EU institutions and decision-making to try to increase the 27-country bloc’s standing on the world stage.
Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende are also among the possible candidates.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband is widely seen as the front-runner for the post of foreign policy high representative, a post that will have greater powers under the treaty which goes into force on December 1.
Other possible candidates for the foreign policy chief job include EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and former Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.
Rompuy – ing into the EU Presidency? The man who can barely ‘stop the traffic in Brussels’ – the Belgian PM – may be about to savour sweet revenge on Tony Blair.
‘Five years ago Blair vetoed the appointment of Guy Verhofstadt, Van Rompuy’s predecessor as PM, as commission president. Asked about Blair on Flemish TV last month, Van Rompuy said: “We have not forgotten.” He may yet have his revenge.’
I just wonder if the rest of the EU too holds such long-held grudges. Or if others will be as celebratory as some Belgians if Blair is rejected for a prime minister who can barely stop the traffic in his own capital city.