Tony Blair backed to be Europe’s first president

Author: By Geoff Meade, Press Association

She said the entire Government fully supported Mr Blair’s “candidature”
although the former prime minister has refused to confirm that he is bidding
for the post.

There is no official list of contenders for a new Euro-job which will only
exist if the Lisbon treaty is fully approved and ratified by all EU
countries.

But Mrs Kinnock, visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg, made clear
the Government would be pushing him as the man to run Europe for up to five
years under new treaty arrangements.

“The UK Government is supporting Tony Blair’s candidature for president of the
Council (of EU governments),” she told a press conference.

Asked if the prospect of being Europe’s president had been discussed with Mr
Blair, she said: “It is the Government’s position. I am sure they would not
do that without asking him”.

Speculation has been mounting for years that Mr Blair would be the obvious
choice to represent the EU under the new arrangements. The post – with an
undefined remit but with a mission to be the global face of the EU – would
run for two and a half years and be renewable once.

That would give Mr Blair a possible five-year term to help shape the EU,
chairing summits of EU leaders and setting the agenda in all key policy
areas.

Mr Blair has kept away from the debate about his future, aware that bidding
too soon could scupper any chances of getting the necessary consensus
amongst EU leaders.

There would also be attacks from eurosceptics if there were official
discussions about a job based on the assumption the controversial Lisbon
treaty will come into force.

In any case, no formal announcement of a candidacy would be made until after
the Irish referendum on the treaty in the autumn – and only if the voters
say “yes”.

Mrs Kinnock said Mr Blair would be a good choice because he was perceived by
many as having the right qualities.

She said: “He is someone with strength of character, status, people know who
he is, and he could step into this new role with a lot of respect and he
would be generally welcomed.”

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