by RAY FLEMING
IT was premature of Glenys Kinnock, Britain's Europe minister, to speak this week of UK support for Tony Blair as President of the EU Council of Ministers. The job does not yet exist and will not come into being until the Lisbon Treaty has been endorsed by Ireland in a second vote in October and ratified by the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. But on the assumption that the Treaty will be operative in 2010, what kind of a person should hold its inaugural presidency? The basic concept of the job is of someone who will oversee the work of the 27 member states in the Council of Ministers in a more sustained way than has been possible while the presidency changes every six months -- this month from Poland to Sweden and in January from Sweden to Spain. The need therefore is for a talented administrative diplomat - able to keep policy issues moving without treading on the toes of individual governments. However, it is inevitable that someone with this responsibility will in time come to be regarded as a representational figure, speaking for the EU members as a whole. There is a need for such a figure - neither the Commission President in Brussels nor the Parliamentary President in Strasbourg can fill this role - but it requires someone of acknowledged stature who commands wide respect. Tony Blair may have some of the qualities needed, but by no means all of them. These are still early days and other candidates have yet to emerge.
by RAY FLEMING