European Council President: Possible Candidates

Fri, Oct 30, 2009, 00:00

A round-up of potential candidates, compiled by JAMIE SMYTH


Socialist, 56 years

The former British prime minister is being pushed hard by Britain as the only candidate with name recognition capable of “stopping traffic” in world capitals. He has powerful skills as a negotiator but is a divisive figure because of his support for the Iraq war in 2003. Britain’s non-membership of the euro zone and the EU common travel area could hurt his chances and several smaller EU states have already sounded warning bells over his candidacy.


Centre-right EPP, 62 years

Former taoiseach John Bruton is coming to the end of his five-year mandate as EU ambassador to Washington. He gained an intimate knowledge of EU affairs as a member of the convention on the future of Europe and was president of the European Council during Ireland’s EU presidency in 1996. Has thrown his hat in the ring for the job but may suffer because of his lower profile in recent years. May be compromise candidate if Blair or Juncker prove too controversial.


Socialist, 68 years

The prime minister of Finland from 1995-2003 is a former journalist. Lipponen reportedly introduced the concept of a European constitution in a speech in 2000, and was once tipped as a contender for EU foreign policy chief. His work as a consultant with the controversial Russian Nord Stream gas project – a gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany, which bypasses several eastern EU states – could prompt concerns about his candidacy in Poland.


Socialist, 65 years

The first woman to become president of Finland, Halonen would provide some much-needed gender balance at the top. A former lawyer with an interest in human rights, she was mentioned previously as a possible candidate for the job of secretary general of the United Nations. Unlike former Irish president Mary Robinson – who has also been mooted as a good female candidate – Halonen has previously represented her country at the European Council.


Centre-right EPP, 53 years

The Dutch prime minister is positioning himself as a good compromise candidate. He has boosted the Netherlands’ international profile in recent years by negotiating invites to G8 and G20 summits. But he is not believed to be a particularly popular member of the European Council. Former Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht once described him as “a mix of Harry Potter” with a “petty, rigid, bourgeois mentality”.


Centre-right EPP, 55 years

Luxembourg’s prime minister has declared his interest in the job and referenced his chairmanship of the euro group as evidence of his pro-EU credentials. He is a shrewd operator and would be well suited to the job if EU states decide they want a facilitator rather than a media superstar as the first president. His candidacy for European Commission president was vetoed by Blair in 2004 on the grounds that he was too much of a federalist.


Socialist, 66 years

Still the longest serving Spanish prime minister, holding office between 1982 and 1996. He was appointed chair of the reflection group on the future of Europe in 2007, which was mandated to draw up a vision of how the EU might look between 2020 and 2030.

Though he was initially considered a strong candidate for the new post, his star has waned in recent months and it would be a surprise if he was appointed.


Former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga.