EU top jobs in limbo | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.11.2009
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EU top jobs in limbo

The European Union plans to hold a special summit next week to fill the new posts of EU president and EU foreign policy chief, but so far there is little agreement on who will get the top jobs.

The Berlaymont building -EU headquarters in Brussels

Brussels is looking for new leaders

Sweden, which currently holds the European Union's rotating six-month presidency, said on Wednesday that the bloc's 27 heads of state and government will meet in Brussels on November 19 to fill the key new positions created by the ratification of the Lisbon reform treaty last month.

However, finding appropriate and acceptable candidates is proving more difficult than expected.

The British government still backs former Prime Minister Tony Blair, despite his unpopularity in some quarters over his support for the Iraq war.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday categorically denied that he is a candidate to become the EU High Representative, the bloc's spokesman on foreign affairs and defense, after his name began circulating last week.

David Miliband

The British Foreign Secretary opts for a career at home

Miliband, speaking at a press conference in London during a visit by the new German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said he "came to British politics to serve the British people in Britain."

His comments immediately fueled speculation that he was striving for leadership of the Labour party and possible future premiership.

British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner, said he had been approached about the foreign policy job after Miliband turned it down, but also said he was "committed to remaining in the British government."

Power struggles marring the selection process

The current favorite to become president of the European Council is Belgium's center-right Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, who is said to have French and German backing.

But there are some doubts about Rompuy in other EU member states, where it is feared he could find himself overshadowed and overwhelmed by Berlin and Paris. Others would prefer a more forceful foreign policy chief, who would stand up to France and Germany, as well as Russia, China and the United States.

Other names mentioned for the post of president include Dutch Prime Minister Peter Balkenende, former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Wednesday however that Mr. Blair was not yet out of the running.

For the foreign affairs job, former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema is considered a strong contender, now that Miliband has clearly stated his intention not to take the post.

Besides the fact that different member states have been proposing different names, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, representing the EU presidency, said he was finding it especially difficult to strike a balance between the political left and right, and the conflicting visions of the smaller and larger EU countries on what role the politicians would play in Brussels.

German foreign minister outlines policy issues

Guido Westerwelle

The foreign minister has been doing the rounds of Germany's allies.

The conflicting visions are a concern that German Foreign Minister Westerwelle touched on during visits to London and earlier to Copenhagen.

Westerwelle told his Danish and British counterparts that he wanted smaller and larger countries to deal with one another at "eye level". He also said Germany would do everything it could to ensure the success of the international climate summit in Copenhagen in December.

Westerwelle said, however, that Berlin would not be rushed into a decision on boosting its Bundeswehr forces in Afghanistan. "Before we talk about numbers, we need to agree on a joint strategy," he said.

The foreign minister spoke at the press conference with Miliband in both English and German, after being criticized for not answering a question in English at a meeting with journalists in Berlin in September.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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