Monday, May 03, 2004

Deadlock on Patten

No progress over selecting a Commission president was made during informal discussions held in Dublin while EU leaders celebrated the new enlargement. The Independent now reports that there is “deadlock”, although favourable noises are emerging from Downing Street, where a spokesman has said that Patten was someone it "could do business with".

An EU spokesman was more guarded, saying, "Obviously these things were discussed but they are nowhere near the point of agreement. Things have yet to coalesce around one person."

It is, however, very difficult to see whether there is an alternative. Chirac's favourite, Luxembourg premier, Jean-Claude Juncker, the Belgian Prime Minister, has already retired from the race.

Guy Verhofstadt, and Antonio Vitorino, Portugal's commissioner – other potential candidates – are unlikely to gain wide support and Austria's Wolfgang Schüssel, who has also been considered, is an unlikely victor as he is associated with Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party.

Either way, the clock is ticking and the EU leaders have very little time left to decide. This gives Patten a very strong hand. Even a compromise candidate, not universally endorsed, would be better than admitting that no-one is prepared to take up what could amount to a poison chalice.

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