Tony Blair for Foreign Affairs Supremo?

According to latest reports, the likelihood of former British prime minister Tony Blair taking over as EU President in 2009 seems to be fading. The Independent newspaper reports a “secret” agreement between the big three, Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel, not to support any candidate for the job who does not have wholehearted approval of the other two.

Merkel is said to have reservations about Blair given Britain’s abstinence from the euro, from Schengen and from various Lisbon provisions. That does make sense when appointing a person who would be responsible for managing the agenda of European Councils for a renewable 2 ½ year term and with top-level global representative functions.

On the other hand the trio will want someone who is one of their own, so Prime Minister Juncker of Luxembourg would fit the bill, with the added bonus of coming from a small member country.

What kind of job will the EU President have anyway, given that the post relates only to the quarterly European summits and not the specialised councils? It is difficult to see the appointee as a major driver of policy – indeed the President of the Commission would be a convincing rival in many policy areas. More important will be the continuity role, avoiding the twice-yearly turmoil of transferring presidency between national leaders.

In practice the revamped Solana job of High Representative could be much more interesting and influential than of EU President. A seat in both Commission and Council, a budget of €10 billion, a clear mandate for international negotiations. Now that’s a job description which Blair could find extremely attractive.