From The Daily Express

Sunday March 25,2007

TONY Blair is secretly backing plans to create a permanent President of Europe, in a move that could see him go head to head for the job with bitter rival Jacques Chirac.

Senior Brussels sources revealed that Mr Blair was backing the idea as European leaders gathered in Berlin last night to mark the European Union’s 50th anniversary.

The plan was first floated as part of the EU constitution, which was rejected by voters in France and Holland two years ago.

It is now being discussed again as part of negotiations in Berlin aimed at reviving the Constitution without sparking more referendums.

Kim Darroch, Mr Blair’s personal envoy to the EU, has been told to use the negotiations to press for a permanent EU president to replace the current system, in which the presidency rotates among the member states every six months.

The Prime Minister would be one of the favourites for the job, which would go to a former EU leader. His main rival would be the outgoing French president Jacques Chirac, who has clashed with Mr Blair over the future of Europe many times during the past decade.

Supporters of the idea claim that a permanent president would provide greater continuity than the current system.
Critics claim it would create a powerbase for greater EU centralisation on issues like foreign policy and defence.

The president would be appointed by other EU leaders, rather than being directly elected.
Neil O’Brien, director of the independent think tank Open Europe, warned that the new president would inevitably gain more powers as time went on.

Mr O’Brien said: “It is very hard to see how the president would be accountable to the people. As for who could do it, Tony Blair would be an obvious candidate.”

Meanwhile plans by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the heads of state to sign a declaration of faith in the EU were on the verge of collapse last night. Instead, only unelected heads of the EU’s main institutions will sign.

A majority in EU countries want a referendum on any new constitution, a poll found.

Posted in Uncategorized

Clare Swinney

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