Sunday, June 27, 2004

Only four days to go

It looks like they might agree on the President quite soon. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has told journalists that a consensus has emerged in the EU that supports Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso for the post. Señhor Barroso was due to make a statement, accepting the nomination, yesterday but has clearly decided to wait for the official announcement on Tuesday, June 29.

Mr Ahern is once again in the air, flying hither and thither in the EU, running up air miles. He has to consult a couple of more people in order to clinch the nomination, which, as usual, has emerged by consensus – an odd way of choosing someone who will, arguably, be the most powerful person in the European Union.

One wonders, also, whether the people to consult will include President Chirac or Chancellor Schröder. The Portuguese Prime Minister is not a great favourite with either of them. He is a confirmed Atlanticist and a less confirmed free-marketeer. He was one of the first to join the "New Europe" side in the row over the Iraqi war. In fact, he hosted the famous meeting in Madeira, that hardened the opposition to the Franco-German policy.

It was generally assumed that France would go on pretending that Britain had won many concessions in the constitutional negotiations in Brussels on June 17 – 18, in order to demand, as a quid pro quo, a pliable President of the Commission. If this does not happen – still something of an 'if' – and Jose Manuel Durao Barroso becomes President, France will have two large favours to call in. What will they demand, one wonders.

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