ITN’s non-story has died before Blair’s EU candidacy

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    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.

    Angela Merkel announced that Germany and France will 'reach an agreement together.' Photograph: Axel Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

    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.


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    4 Responses to “ITN’s non-story has died before Blair’s EU candidacy”

    1. Caela Says:

      This move by Chancellor Merkel really puzzles me. If she really does want the Belgian Prime Minister for the post, why does she have to brief on the obvious fact (to EU watchers at least) that President Sarkozy and her are in agreement or do not oppose each other at the same time have her ambassador in Brussels brief of her government’s support for the candidacy of the Belgian leader? (My interpretations might be off but I found this fact inconsistent.)

      Considering the doubt that candidates like the Latvian President has cast on the selection process, I wonder if this is just a grave miscalculation on the part of the German Chancellor. However, physical chemists are not so prone to grave miscalculations so I have several questions: Is she trying to undermine the candidacy of Tony Blair and stand against the Italian and British governments in public? Or is she trying to undermine the candidacy of Herman van Rompuy by causing a stir at capitals across the EU? Or is this a ploy to force the council into a vote and prop up the post of President of the EU Council?

      If either the answer to the first or second question is yes, the answer to the third question is definitely yes. And all of which might just lead to the election of Tony Blair to the post. Whilst all it would take is 2 big countries and probably 3 or so small ones to block a candidate it is not a given that the French and the German leaders would choose the same candidate after all because if it were so, why would the Chancellor have to say that they “will reach an agreement together on this issue and not oppose each other”? First note the “will” and second “not oppose”. They indicate that first, they have not reached it and second, they are not necessarily voting on the same candidate.

      Now, if Chancellor Merkel really wants the Belgian leader to win, why is she risking a qualitative majority voting where if the rumors are true 12-13 member states would back Tony Blair? Also why did she do this just over 24 hrs into the decision (a move that would leave other states to regroup, horse-trade and organize for the vote)? Is this an attempt to give a credibility not only to the selection process, the leaders behind it, to the post but also to who will be the holder of the post (be it Blair or Rompuy)? If it is, I have to say it’s one hell of a brilliant move!

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Interesting, my dear Watson … Caela.

        It’s hard to work out just what is in others’ minds, but overall I do NOT see this as helpful to Tony. If it is, and is actually meant to be, she could have fooled me and it seems his team in Brussels who are reportedly downbeat right now. Unless, to extend your scenario, they are pretending to be “downbeat”! The plot might yet thicken.

        Personally, I give more credence to the view that she does not want to be outshone by ‘Mr Flash’. She’d prefer a quieter and more malleable individual to break in the job so that she can hone it, when she is ready, say in two and a half or even five years, to fit her own agenda.

        Merkel for President? Oh, yes, I think that is her plan – in 2012 or 2015.

        It is also reported that Berlin was not happy about the German ambassador’s briefing re supporting Rompuy. Unless, of course all that too is part of a plot!

      • Caela Says:

        If that is her plan, this is indeed a grave miscalculation. While the powers may or may not be adjustable, the post’s rank in the global pecking order isn’t. If you cannot make other capitals to stop on their tracks now and listen to you, they won’t in the future. First holder defines the role for a very long time.

        Years ago ASEAN was given a choice and chose to act small. Too small infact that it wasn’t able to handle Myanmar or human rights issues even within the region. If EU leaders choose to act small, it will doom the post to strategic irrelevance.

    2. margaret walters Says:

      doesn’t merkel realize that if she wants the job in 30 months /5 yrs she needds a big hitter now or Merkel will be out of the runing before it starts if the role has already coalesced into a chairmanship now. If she really wants to be 2nd EU president she needs Blair to be the first or she can forget this job at all and she is throwing it away for herself

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