Poland resisting 'coronation' of EU Council president


EU LEADERS remain deadlocked over the nomination of the first full-time president of the European Council as former Soviet bloc states resist a “coronation” of Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy.

Mr Van Rompuy emerged as a leading compromise candidate last week following the Socialist group’s rejection of former British prime minister Tony Blair and French and British resistance to Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s long-serving prime minister.

In a position paper reported yesterday, Poland wants candidates for the presidency and the new post of EU foreign policy chief to undergo job interviews in front of EU leaders.

With the views of France, Germany and Britain pivotal in the appointments, this is seen as an attempt by Poland to block a carve-up by the most powerful EU states.

With British foreign secretary David Miliband ruling himself out of contention for the foreign policy post, the prospects of former Italian prime minister Massimo D’Alema could also run into trouble with former eastern bloc states.

Mr D’Alema is seen in diplomatic circles as a front-runner for the post, but his background as a leading figure in Italy’s communist party and editor of a communist newspaper could prove problematic with former eastern bloc states.

Others in contention for the foreign policy post include Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, former French foreign minister Michel Barnier and former Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik.

Following Czech ratification last week of the Lisbon Treaty, under which the jobs are created, Sweden’s EU presidency is coming under mounting pressure to quickly settle the appointments.

While Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had provisional plans to convene a summit tomorrow to sign off on the appointments, consensus remains elusive. However, Irish diplomatic sources expect him to call a special summit before the next scheduled summit at the start of December.

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said he doubted if agreement could be reached this week, adding that the decision was likely to be made by EU leaders at a meeting next week.

“The time has come for us to have someone who can make their weight felt not only in meetings, but in the preparation for these meetings, in the European debate,” Mr Kouchner said yesterday.

British prime minister Gordon Brown said Mr Blair was the only British candidate seeking one of the two jobs.

Mr Brown’s remarks – and a conversation Mr Miliband has had with Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the European Socialists group – are seen as the definitive indication that Mr Miliband would not take a job if it is offered to him.

“We take that as a definitive sign from him that he’s renouncing the job,” a spokesman for the Socialist group said.