Bertie Ahern tipped for EU presidency

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The Independent Online

The post is not vacant until the end of the year and the job description has not yet been defined. But the race is already on for the European Union's first full-time president.

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is the latest to be touted as a possible contender for the position, for which the names of Tony Blair, Jose Manuel Barroso and a couple of other European leaders have been mentioned. But according to sources in Brussels, the Luxembourg Prime Minister and veteran European "fixer" Jean-Claude Juncker remains the one to watch.

Mr Blair's name was among the first to surface, when Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, warmly endorsed him for the post. But a senior European diplomat said the former prime minister, who is now the envoy of the Middle East Quartet, had "very slim chances" of succeeding.

Mr Barroso is the current European Commission president, and this may be a factor against him. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister who is planning a referendum on joining the euro, is also said to be in the frame.

Mr Ahern received the backing of the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, on a recent visit to Warsaw. "For Poland and the Poles, and for my part, if the taoiseach of Ireland had such an idea and intention, the approach of the Poles would be most obviously and certainly favourable," Mr Tusk was quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner. However the man himself says he hasn't thought about the job.