New body to consider future EU challenges


GROUP OF THE WISE:EU LEADERS are expected to endorse the membership of a 12-member group today that will reflect on the future of the EU and the long-term challenges it faces, writes Jamie Smyth

Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González will chair the so-called "group of the wise", which includes two vice-chairs, former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila from Finland.

The nine other members, include politicians and experts from Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Austria, France, Greece, Germany and Poland.

There is no place for former European Parliament president Pat Cox, who had earlier been tipped for a place.

European liberal leaders and the Government had backed Mr Cox to assume the role of chairman of the group when it was first announced at the December summit last year.

Several EU diplomats hinted yesterday that the Republic's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in June may have undermined his chances of becoming a member.

The group, proposed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been given a mandate to "identify the key issues and developments which the union is likely to face and to analyse how these might be addressed . . . in order to help the union anticipate and meet challenges more effectively in the longer term (2020-2030)". Britain had initially opposed the group's establishment, fearing Mr Sarkozy had proposed it as a way of recommending against Turkey's accession. But a British diplomat said yesterday that it now supported its formation.

The nine members to be appointed today are: former Polish president Lech Walesa; mayor of Stuttgart Wolfgang Schuster; Greek professor Kalypso Nicolaïdis; French trade unionist Nicole Notat; Austrian economist Rainer Münz; former EU commissioner Mario Monti; British industrialist Richard Lambert; Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas; and Danish academic Lykke Friis.