Blair’s likely candidacy has attracted great interest across Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president has repeatedly backed the former British prime minister for the role, whereas his potential candidacy also has many critics, notably Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and architect of the now defunct European constitution. In assessing Blair for the position, Europe’s leaders will have much to consider; the potential of the capabilites he would bring with him to Brussels and, indeed, the alleged shortfalls he possesses, which many feel would undermine the European Union. The post does not even exist yet and hinges on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, most notably from Ireland, where a second referendum is expected in the second half of this year. Blair’s case is analysed below.
Influence in Europe and the World
Tony Blair still holds enormous influence on the European stage. Not only has he the backing of President Sarkozy, one of the most influential leaders of the European Union, but Italy’s premier, Silvio Berlusconi will undoubtedly endorse his candidacy. Blair will also have benefited from time. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent successful 6-month spell in charge of the EU presidency, it is widely viewed now that Europe needs a high-profile figure to represent its interests on the world stage. Blair is one such figure. Last year his close relationship with the former US president, George Bush was viewed as a major stumbling block in Europe, no longer a problem as Barack Obama now holds the keys to the White House. His sins as British prime minister were exempting Britain from the euro and the Schengen convention. For many observers in Europe, these issues are simply too much for Blair to become the EU’s president. Not least, his successor at 10 Downing street, Gordon Brown, would be loath to see a President Blair, for fear of opening up old divisions within the British Labour party, despite his comments in public. However, after considering lesser known political figures on the global stage such as Jean-Claude Juncker, Bertie Ahern and Jose Maria Aznar, it has been recognised in European political circles that none may be taken seriously in Washington, Delhi, Beijing and Moscow. This has strengthened Blair’s hand, which, coupled with popular backing by Europe’s most powerful leaders, has placed him in a formidable position.
What would have previously been a problem for a Blair campaign would have been opposition from Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor. Germany is the largest economy in the EU, and along with France, represents the core of the Union, holding significant influence over policy. It is unlikely that Merkel would put up much resistance to Blair. Perhaps telling of such a rapproachment was the Paris summit on the future of capitalism in January of this year, where Blair shared the stage with Ms Merkel and M. Sarkozy. Out of all the potential speakers at this summit, it is quite curious that it was Blair, frontrunner to join them in future as the EU’s president.