UNDEVELOPING STORY – then – DEVELOPING AGAIN
Comment at end
19th November, 2009
TONY BLAIR IS STILL IN THE EU RACE
YES, ONCE AGAIN REPORTS OF HIS DEATH HAVE BEEN EXAGGERATED
After the peculiar “scoop” at ITN’s News at 6:30 last night, which no other mainstream outlet covered, it would seem that Mr Blair’s candidacy is still alive after all. Coming from a broadcaster rather than a rag some of us actually have to admit to believing it, or at least allowing the report some modicum of respectability.
The lesson? When it comes to accepting what they say about Tony Blair – AND YES, I SHOULD KNOW BY NOW – be careful!
Meanwhile, it seems the Franco-German “deal” has angered some EU countries not “in the loop”, according to The Guardian.
Germany and France are to strike a deal on who they want for the coveted post of first permanent European council president, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today, sparking anger in other European capitals over a feared Franco-German stitch-up.
With 27 EU leaders going into a special summit tomorrow increasingly at odds over the twin posts of European Council president and EU foreign minister, Merkel stated for the first time that she and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, intended to agree on a common candidate, believed to be Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister.
“Germany and France will reach an agreement together on this issue and not oppose each other,” she said. “We are in contact on this … I am optimistic that we will reach a result tomorrow.”
Her comment came on a day when Germany’s ambassador to Belgium, Reinhard Bettzuege, broke ranks with the policy of silence on the presidency by stating Berlin’s support for Van Rompuy.
“Chancellor Merkel and her government are behind Van Rompuy for this job,” he told a Belgian newspaper, De Morgen.
News of the preferred candidate came as it emerged that the Belgian shares the strong opposition of both Sarkozy and Merkel to Turkey joining the EU.
In a debate in the Belgian parliament five years ago, Van Rompuy made plain that he viewed the EU as a Christian club with no room for a large Muslim country such as Turkey.
“Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe,” Van Rompuy said years before he became Belgian prime minister. “The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey.”
The EU is divided over Turkey, with France, Germany, and Austria leading hostility to membership, while Britain, Sweden and the east Europeans are strong supporters of Turkey in Europe.
Van Rompuy’s stated antipathy to Turkey earned him the support today for the EU job from the Vlaams Belang or Flemish Interest party on the extreme anti-immigrant right wing in Flanders.
But news of a Franco-German alliance triggered anger in some European capitals.
“We’re not having a replay of the bad old days when the big guys fixed all the deals,” said a Polish official.
The Poles campaigned for greater glasnost, to open up the contest for the key jobs. But they have now conceded defeat, although they claim to have the support of 10 of the 27 EU countries. “We had a go,” said the Polish official. “We wanted a degree of transparency to address the sceptics. And lots of countries feel that these appointments are just being made over their heads. There’s always been a suspicion about the way these deals are done in the EU. This is a genuine example. It puts everyone to shame.”
A senior EU official said: “A joint Franco-German candidate will trigger a counter-reaction from the Brits and the east Europeans.” With tempers worsening over the way Europe’s first council president and foreign minister are to be appointed, hopes slumped that there would be any quick breakthrough tomorrow.
Senior diplomats and officials admitted they did not know how Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister chairing tomorrow’s summit, was proposing to organise the meeting.
In days of telephone diplomacy, Reinfeldt has failed to fashion a consensus, but is reluctant to put the divisive appointments to a vote.
The Dutch prime minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende, was said to have pulled out of the contest. The British insisted they would continue to lobby for former prime minister Tony Blair.
The British government, clinging doggedly to its campaign to win the presidential post for Blair against the odds, today criticised Van Rompuy for the first time for harbouring “a federalist agenda”, code for favouring European integration at the expense of national government in the EU.
- Check the odds here – no movement in the last day.
- The Mail: EU Presidency race descends into chaos as leaders struggle to agree on candidate