EU presidency: the quiet candidates

Thomas Lefebvre of Le croche-pied has a good list of possible candidates for the future EU presidency (and other posts), with their pros and cons. Others (1, 2, 3) have, of course, also discussed this and there is even an internet petition going on against one of the candidates.

The names mentioned most often for the post that is newly created by the Lisbon Treaty are those of Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker and Anders Fogh-Rasmussen. Which raises the question whether any of these three will ever hold the post. After all, experience often shows that names mentioned early in the selection process for a high-profile political position get so much time to be subjected to debate and criticism, that the nomination in the end goes to a less controversial (i.e. less debated) candidate.

So then, who are the quiet candidates who are more likely to become EU president than any of the top three? There are a few selection criteria (preferentially an experienced and well-regarded statesman/-women from a small country that is in the eurozone but neither too atlantic nor too federalist) which are impossible to fulfill all at the same time. With this in mind, and in no particular order, here are a number of suggestions:

  • José Luis Zapatero. That is, if he loses the elections today, but even if he does not there is always a chance he accepts. A socialist, but not too badly. From southern Europe, but well-regarded in the north. From a large country, but not from one of the big three (Germany, France, UK). Won a referendum on the defunct constitution.
  • Jean-Luc Dehaene. Belgium’s folksy and pragmatic former PM and one of Europe’s elder statesmen. One of the vice-presidents of the Convention that wrote the EU Constitution, but (unlike Guy Verhofstadt) too smart to become one of its figureheads and champions. Since then professional mediator in political conflicts in Europe and at home. Life motto: “Problems should be solved only when they arise”. The fact that he is a christian-democrat could work in his advantage.
  • Wim Kok. Former PM of the Netherlands and another of Europe’s elder statesmen. A pragmatic social-democrat, very Third Way though not as blatantly as Tony Blair. Chaired the High-Level Group in 2004 that more or less revived the Lisbon Strategy. Escaped the 2005 referendum disaster in the Netherlands by losing the elections in 2002.
  • Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. Latvia’s former president. Popular on the world stage, as proved by her serious candidacy at the time for the succession of Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General. A balanced political profile as a moderate conservative who spoke out in favour of gay rights (no small thing in Latvia). Fluent in French as well as English, which would certainly help her getting support from France. Pretty atlanticist to the extent that she spoke out in favour of the Iraq war. This could work against her, as well as the fact that she is not (yet) from a eurozone country.
  • Martti Ahtisaari. Former Finnish president. His Kosovo plan did not quite hold out as planned but this does not seem to have damaged his image as Mr Fixit on the international stage. From a small country, eurozone, no controversial views known. Seems a perfect candidate.
  • Carl Bildt. Currently Sweden’s foreign minister and another heavy-weight from the north. Like Ahtisaari with extensive Balkan experience, which may also help him get the post of Europe’s High Representative if he does not become President and if Solana does not succeed himself. A moderate conservative. Author of highly readable blogs in both English and Swedish.

    Any other suggestions?

2 Responses to “EU presidency: the quiet candidates”

  1. Pages tagged "latvia" Says:

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  2. Reflections on European Democracy » EU presidency: the quiet candidates (II) Says:

    […] Stephens of the Financial Times writes in so many words that the new president of the EU (Council) should be Tony Blair after all, instead of one of the lesser known candidates. This is […]

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