PM’s last-ditch appeal to Merkel for Blair EU presidency

Author: By Andrew Grice

The Prime Minister ? who will lobby other EU leaders at a ceremony to mark the
20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall ? will tell the German
Chancellor that Europe needs a “big hitter” on the world stage
rather than someone to chair meetings ? as some EU leaders view the new post
to be created under the Treaty of Lisbon.

Meanwhile Mr Blair is reported to have made a late flurry of personal calls to
EU leaders in bid to revive his campaign for the post. According to The
Times, the former prime minister is believed to have spoken to José Manuel
Barroso, the head of the European Commission, Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach,
and Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, also in
contention for the post.

Senior British officials insist that Mr Blair still has a “50-50 chance”
of landing the job even though his prospects receded when some member states
opposed him. They believe the German Chancellor now holds the key. The
officials claim the former prime minister still enjoys the personal support
of Nicolas Sarkozy but admit that the French President wants a common front
with Ms Merkel. She has hinted that the EU President should come from one of
the EU’s smaller member states.

If Mr Blair is blocked, Britain is likely to support Mr Balkenende over Herman
Van Rompuy, the Prime Minister of Belgium.

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