Dutch premier now likely candidate for presidency of European Council

Irish Times (Link) - Jamie Smyth (September 18, 2009)

DUTCH PRIME minister Jan Peter Balkenende has emerged as a possible candidate for the post of European Council president, which will be created if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.

Two Dutch newspapers De Telegraaf and Het Financieele Dagblad cited three sources in Mr Balkenende�s Christian Democrat party yesterday, who claim to know �for sure� that he is a leading contender for the job.

Speculation is beginning to mount about the likely identity of the new council president following the re-election of Jos� Manuel Barroso for another five-year term as European Commission president this week. Britain�s Gordon Brown said formal talks on filling the position were not on the agenda of the summit and could only take place after the Irish vote. But several names have been linked to the �280,000 a year job including Tony Blair, former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen, the current French premier Francois Fillon and former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez.

Mr Blair is likely to face opposition to his candidature because of his central role in supporting the war in Iraq. Mr Lipponen could also face opposition from former eastern block countries such as Poland because he works for Gazprom on the proposed Nord Stream gas pipeline. Luxembourg premier Jean Claude Junker, whose name has previously been linked to the job, also seems to have dropped out of the running in recent months.

The post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs is also due to be filled next month following the retirement of incumbent Javier Solana. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier could become a candidate for this job if his party loses the upcoming German elections to Chancellor Angela Merkel�s Christian Democrats. Other potential candidates include Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, Austria�s Ursula Plassnik, and the Finnish commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn.

A final decision on both jobs will be taken at the European Council on October 30th.