On January 1, 2010, potentially the most powerful man in the world takes office. As the first President of the European Council, he have not only the support and authority of a group that produces 30% of the Gross World Product, but also the chance to dictate the role of office for all future inhabitants.
The man gunning for this role of extreme importance is no less than former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The role and scope of the job itself will be shaped by the personality of the occupant.
There are two broad schools that the style of Presidency could fall into. They could play a similar role to the current temporary president; a low-limelight administrative task, allowing much to be achieved outside of the media glare. On the other hand, they could be a high-profile, statesman-like figure to represent the EU across the world. It is not difficult to guess which of these two Blair would embody. He has already said that he would not be interested in the job if it involved merely chairing meetings, but wants serious power to intervene over trade and defence policy. Ultimately, it is his role as an extrovert and statesman, rather than his European credentials, that are most likely to get him elected. It is in the EU’s best interests to have a President who will carry high levels of political currency with them when dealing with overseas governments and negotiating treaties and settlements.
For an organisation looking at an increasingly powerful Asia and growing international respect for NATO and the UN diminishing, the EU needs to be strong to keep its desired place at the top of the world stage. Blair not only has the record of successful peace talks in Northern Ireland under his belt, but a further five years as Middle-East envoy. Indeed, one of the reasons that the Americans partnered with the British over Iraq was the strong Middle-Eastern contact book that Blair could wield. Such a contact book will serve him well when acting on behalf of Europe as its self-appointed spokesman and representative abroad. His relationship with America should, conversely, work in his favour as well. Many people in Britain don’t realise is that, in the States, Blair was never seen as Bush’s poodle. He was well respected and taken seriously. True, he alienated much of Europe by allying with Bush. The links that he still maintains with the US will actually leave him well-equipped for a continuing relationship, unmarred by the British connection and Gordon Brown’s recent transatlantic humiliations over Afghanistan and Lockerbie.
Such a role would see Blair placed in previously totally inaccessible circles, such as expanding the G2, currently consisting of America and China, to include the EU.
Add to this the fact that he would be well placed for talks and negotiations with Russia’s premier Vladimir Putin. The resulting requirements for this job therefore need the international gravitas that Blair can muster, like few else. In this important first term of office, anyone with insufficient international standing will lead to the instant ridicule of the EU Presidency, and general weakening of the global influence of the body. One restriction on the position is that candidates must be the head or former head of government of an EU state. This cuts Blair’s list of opponents down to few who could seriously compete. Whether or not you agree with the proposals, the fact remains that the EU will have a President at the start of next year, and that the President is likely to be Tony Blair. Love him or hate him, this can surely only be good for the position of Britain’s within Europe as a whole.