Hurd backs Brittan for EU president

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Indy Politics
DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday said he would be pressing for Sir Leon Brittan to succeed Jacques Delors as President of the European Commission at next week's Corfu summit, writes Colin Brown.

While Sir Leon's support was reported to be growing in Europe, Mr Hurd told the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that Britain had no 'personal criticism' of Jean-Luc Dehaene, the Prime Minister of Belgium, who is emerging as the front-runner over Ruud Lubbers, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Mr Dehaene is seen as the favourite with the support of President Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor. But Mr Hurd said he believed Sir Leon was the best candidate after his handling of the Gatt round.

He said the EU did not need a promoter of new initiatives. It needed a president who would get a grip with the existing programmes and deal competently with them.

The 1996 summit, which is to review the structure of Europe, threatens to split the Tory Party again. But Mr Hurd said he did not believe it would repeat the problems of the Maastricht treaty, when Britain was on the defensive.

He pointed out that the Maastricht treaty obliged the EU to begin the review in 1996 but it did not specify when it had to end. That was seen as a clear signal that Britain would seek to minimise the damage by delaying progress on the 1996 summit until after the election, possibly in 1997.