A Gang-of-Five Gallery of EU Commission President Candidates

Today’s on-line Le Monde goes deeper into the question of who will succeed Romano Prodi at the beginning of next year as EU Commission President, putting forth five candidates in all under a link Les cinq prétendants: “the five claimants,” or even “the five pretenders” if you like.

(I simply reported yesterday on Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt being tipped as the likely successor by the Czech business newspaper Hospodárské noviny. By the way, I can’t give you any link to this Le Monde article, because the five putative candidates are presented in turn by means of a pop-up picture gallery, with underlying comment that is presented for such a short time that you can barely read it before it disappears for the next picture. So those of you who can read French, but slowly, you’ll have to give up on this one and simply go with what I can report to you below.)

Le Monde’s supposed candidates are:

  • Verhofstadt, Belgium. He may be liberal/Thatcherite by conviction (“liberal” in the European sense, mind you, meaning of the right, not of the left), but the commentary text here gives him credit for modifying those views, at least tactically, so that he has been able to govern in coalition with the socialists and even the Belgian greens.
  • Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg. Prime minister of Luxembourg since 1999, he has explicitly said he doesn’t want to be Commission President. But maybe he’ll change his mind. He is credited with being one of the masterminds behind the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, which among other things laid the legal framework for the introduction of the euro, and supposedly functioned as some sort of spokesman for the interests of small EU countries during the Constitutional Convention.
  • Jean-Luc Dehaene, Belgium. Former prime minister of Belgium, and therefore almost ex oficio a skilled mediator between the very-different Flemish (Dutch) and Walloon (French) interests. He also functioned as vice-chairman of the Constitutional Convention. He was up for this job in 1999, but was vetoed by the British, it says here, as too federalist. Well, the same regime is still in power in the UK as back then!
  • Chris Patten, UK. From the British Conservative Party, the last British governor of Hong Kong, currently external affairs commissioner. His plus is said to be that he has shown he can stand up to the Americans. The favorite candidate of the British government? Well, he is of the right nationality, but wrong party.
  • António Vitorino, Portugal. Portuguese socialist, currently commissioner responsible for justice and home affairs (i.e. police – but of course there isn’t any EU police). He is the least-known of the candidates, but his time nonetheless might have come, given the current European problems both of immigration and anti-terrorist measures.
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