UPDATE 2:15pm, Tuesday 17th: Just as I suggested 13 hours ago, Mr Blair is closing in on Mr Rompuy. Blair’s present odd are now 5:00 from 6:00, though Rompuy has moved UP a fraction at 1:44, from 1:50. The next two have both dropped back to 9:00. There are just over 3 and a half points separating Rompuy and Blair as it stands. Still all to play for, for OUR MAN. Benedict Brogan has some thoughts on this too. See here.
Comment at end
17th November, 2009
WILL THE ‘DEAD HORSE’ PIP ROMPUY AT EU POST AFTER ALL?
I’ve been monitoring ONE betting site, for consistency’s sake, and have to report that when I checked a couple of hours ago Tony Blair’s odds had weakened from the fairly consistent 6:50 of the past week to 7:00.
Now they have dramatically strengthened to 6:00.
By some margin he still trails Van Rompuy, who remains at 1:50, where he has been for the last week. But one whole point closer to the winning post for Blair is indicative of some movement and may betray the complexities of the political deal-making behind the closed doors of the EU. The fact that few candidates have yet declared is just by the way.
[Presently Juncker is third at 7:50 and Balkenende fourth at 8:00.]
Expect Blair to gain on Van Rompuy is the next few days as third and fourth drop back. As The Guardian article below shows, there is still a strong possibility that rumours of Blair’s EU presidency death have been exaggerated.
An early indication as to whether or not Tony Blair is likely to be appointed will be his whereabouts on Thursday evening. If he is at dinner in Brussels, Hague and Cameron will be down the local drowning their sorrows.
By Nicholas Watt and Ian Traynor
“Many candidates will be in Brussels because they will be attending the dinner as EU leaders. It is highly unlikely that Blair would attend the summit unless he was to be appointed, because he is the only candidate who does not hold office.”
Tony Blair still stands an outside chance of assuming the new post of president of the European council, amid signs that EU leaders will take the selection process down to the wire at an emergency summit on Thursday.
British government officials believe that the former prime minister could emerge victorious at the last minute because there is no consensus on a candidate among the EU’s 27 leaders.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, who will chair Thursday’s summit as part of his country’s rotating presidency of the EU, is embarking on fresh consultations with the 27 leaders.
Reinfeldt had hoped to present the leaders on Thursday with a list of three names for the three posts that are to be decided – the president of the European council, the EU’s high representative for foreign policy and the secretary general of the European council.
There was a growing acknowledgment tonight that Reinfeldt may fail to find agreement before the summit and that the decision could go down to “coffee and mints” at the dinner on Thursday night, as one observer put it.
Cecilia Malmstrom, the Swedish Europe minister, said in Brussels: “There are still more names than posts.”
Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister, is still seen as the frontrunner for the presidency because he meets two criteria demanded by many EU leaders – he hails from the EU’s dominant centre-right and he is the leader of a small member state. But Van Rompuy does not enjoy overwhelming support, keeping Blair’s hopes alive. One British official said: “There is no consensus. Blair is not dead. He still stands a chance.”
It is understood that Blair will allow his name to remain in play until the end of the process unless it becomes abundantly clear by the eve of the summit that he has no support beyond diehards in London and Rome. The former prime minister is said to be realistic about his chances.
In a sign of the uncertainty over the process, Poland demanded that candidates for the two main posts of president and high representative appear at the summit on Thursday to present their credentials. Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels that the process needed to be more open.
Many candidates will be in Brussels because they will be attending the dinner as EU leaders. It is highly unlikely that Blair would attend the summit unless he was to be appointed, because he is the only candidate who does not hold office.
The uncertainty over the new posts, which come into force after the Lisbon treaty was finally ratified by all member states, means that the EU is heading for a classic round of horse trading.
One factor in Blair’s favour is the failure of the centre-left to find a credible candidate for the post of foreign policy high representative.
This could go to a candidate from the centre-right – the former Hong Kong governor Lord Patten is being tipped in some circles, while the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini could triumph at the last minute – possibly handing the presidency to Blair.
- Blair Foundation blog lists some of this week’s fun & games
- The FT notes that Europe is still a looming crisis for Cameron. It was ever thus.
- Van Rompuy doing opposite of what he promised, AND – “furious at another Belgian PM for deserting.
Interestingly, he criticised former Belgian PM Jean-Luc Dehaene for wanting to leave Belgium in 1994 to become EU Commission President, saying: “I was furious at Dehaene when he wanted to go to the European Commission. I have sent him a letter twice, hopefully for him he has thrown it away. I did not want it and I found it a shame that he would leave us in the lurch.” (De Morgen, 11 February 2006).
Is he about to leave Belgium in the lurch too, and fulfill a wish to become EU President?
Van Rompuy seems pretty good at doing the opposite of what he has pledged. In 2007 he warned: “I know that some are contemplating having a Belgian Federal government backed only by a minority of Flemish MPs in the Belgian Parliament. A government which only has a majority in Wallonia is playing with fire. I am now speaking in the interest of the country: this is dangerous for the sake of the State” (De Morgen, 27 januari 2007). One year later he was and still is the leader of such a government.
Tags: Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, David Cameron, dinner summit Brussels Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Tony Blair EU President, will Blair beat Rompuy, William Hague