Tony Blair’s ‘Mister Europe’ hopes suffer a setback

April 18th, 2008 - 12:32 am ICT by admin  

Brussels, April 17 (DPA) Tony Blair’s presumed interest in being appointed “Mister Europe” suffered a setback Thursday after a leading European lawmaker revealed that his bid would be blocked by France. Martin Schulz, who is the chairman of the Party of European Socialists group in the European Parliament, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the newly-created post to go to someone from “a country that takes part in all European Union (EU) policies.”

This would exclude any candidate from Britain, which has opted out of both the EU’s free-movement Schengen Agreement and its economic and monetary union policy.

Britain has also opted out of the future Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is part of the reform treaty currently being ratified by member states and which creates the post of full-time president of the European Council.

If confirmed, the French position would also exclude another possible candidate, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussens, whose country has also opted out of several EU policies.

Schulz told DPA that he had discussed the matter with Sarkozy during a visit to the Elysee Palace in Paris April 4.

The MEP’s words appeared to contradict remarks made by Sarkozy in October, when he was quoted as saying that Blair was one of Europe’s most outstanding figures and that picking him for the job would be “a smart choice”.

EU leaders are likely to choose a candidate in the months preceding the entry into force of the reform treaty, expected to take place early next year.

And Sarkozy will play a key role in the discussions since France takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the bloc July 1.

Another candidate being tipped for the post is Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

The “Mister Europe” position is designed to represent the interest of member states within the EU executive, the European Commission.

His or her role will be, among other things, to prepare and chair the bloc’s regular meetings of heads of government and state, which take place four times a year.

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