LISBON, Portugal – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday that his predecessor Tony Blair would be a "great candidate" for the new European Union president's job, envisioned in the EU governing treaty that leaders endorsed at their summit.
Brown said that while it was too early to say when the candidate would be chosen, because the new treaty has yet to be ratified by member nations, he nevertheless tossed Blair's hat into the ring of potential candidates.
"Tony Blair would be a great candidate for any significant international job," Brown told reporters at the end of EU summit talks, which wrapped up a final deal on a new EU treaty.
"As you know the work that he is doing in the Middle East (as a peace envoy) is something that is of huge international importance," Brown added.
Brown cautioned that it was premature to discuss candidates, but speculation swirled in the corridors at the summit about who would put their names forward to take on the post if the new treaty is ratified and comes into force Jan. 1, 2009.
Media reports in recent days had already listed Blair, Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on the short list for the job, which is meant to boost the profile and unity of the 27-nation union.
Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has also been touted as a candidate and he himself refused to rule himself out to be EU boss. "It's an interesting job," he said.
The new position, created under the newly named Lisbon Treaty will chair leaders summits and meetings and help the EU's foreign policy chief represent the bloc on the world stage — an influential post that could become the most powerful job in the EU.
"The first president of the (EU's) European Council will probably come from old member states," said Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
He warned his political rival, Kwasniewski, who is running in this Sunday's parliamentary elections in Poland, that he should not be considered for the post. "If I was him ... I would not run for another post."
Kwasniewski, however, seems to be the front-runner for the post, according to Andrew Duff, a longtime Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament who helped draft the new EU treaty.
"Kwasniewski, he's very good. He's from the east and he's a social democrat, which we need as well," Duff said.
He rejected the idea of a Blair candidacy, saying other countries would never pick him because of his track record, notably on backing the U.S. war in Iraq, which was opposed by many EU nations.
"He's just too British and a Brit doesn't deserve the job," Duff said.
Former Danish Premier Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists, was already campaigning for his successor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as EU president at the summit.
"You should always hope that it will be someone from your own country, no matter who it might be," Nyrup Rasmussen told Danish daily Politiken.
Fogh Rasmussen said after the summit, however, that he was not interested.
"I am not a candidate and it is not of immediate importance," Fogh Rasmussen said. "I am really fine in my job as Danish prime minister."
Other candidates mentioned include longtime Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker and outgoing Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Under the new treaty a president has to be chosen and backed by all leaders and can serve for a maximum five-year term to chair EU meetings to "facilitate cohesion and consensus" and represent the EU abroad.
The new EU boss is to replace the current and often confusing system in which EU leaders and nations rotate into the presidency every six months.
EU nations will also have to pick a new "high representative" to coordinate the bloc's foreign policy, a post currently held by Spaniard Javier Solana.
The post will be given more powers and will get a seat on the EU's executive commission when the treaty comes into force.
As vice president of the European Commission, the foreign policy chief will get control over the EU's aid budget and its extensive network of diplomats and civil servants.