EU Leaders to Meet Nov. 9, Spurring Speculation on President

Bloomberg (Link) - James G. Neuger (November 6, 2009)

European Union leaders announced a previously unscheduled meeting during next week�s festivities to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, spurring speculation the EU may pick its first president.

The dinner meeting on Nov. 9 in Berlin comes as Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, currently in charge of the EU�s agenda, tries to broker a deal to fill the posts of president and foreign policy chief. All 27 EU leaders will attend the dinner, which will be hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a German government spokesman said.

�This may be the meeting that breaks the logjam on who becomes president and foreign minister,� Shada Islam, an analyst at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre, said in a telephone interview. �The leaders need to move fast to correct the image that the EU moves at a glacial pace.�

Passage this week of the EU�s new governing treaty shifted debate over the appointments into high gear, with Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy emerging as a compromise candidate for president after former U.K. leader Tony Blair�s chances faded.

Van Rompuy, 62, joined Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, 53, and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, 54, as contenders in the behind-the-scenes campaign for the post, intended to heighten the EU�s global profile.

Reinfeldt will meet the press at 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Berlin, the Swedish government said. The leaders� dinner is at 9:30 p.m., the German government said in a statement.

The role of the president, with a 2 1/2 year-term renewable once, is to �drive forward� the work of EU summits and �facilitate cohesion and consensus,� according to the new treaty.


That job description points to �somebody who�s a conciliator and a mediator,� said Richard Whitman, a European expert at Chatham House in London. �The photo-op side of the job is one which is of second order of significance.�

Blair, 56, the highest-profile candidate, failed to win the backing of socialist allies, such as Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and Spain�s Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, partly due to his support for George W. Bush�s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Contenders for EU foreign policy chief include U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, 44, and Massimo D�Alema, 60, who has served as Italy�s prime and foreign minister.