Minister in EU attack on 'arrogant' centre-right

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The Independent Online

Britain yesterday entered the battle over the EU's most senior job, accusing centre-right politicians of an arrogant attempt to dictate the choice of the next European Commission president.

The intervention, from Denis MacShane, Britain's minister for Europe, marks the opening shot in a conflict over who should succeed Romano Prodi later this year. Mr MacShane launched a fierce attack on comments made by Hans-Gert Pöttering, the leader of the EPP centre-right bloc of MEPs.

With his political group expected to remain dominant in the European Parliament after June's European elections, Mr Pottering warned that MEPs might block member states' choice for the European Commission president if they come from the centre-left.

Mr MacShane accused the right of playing "cheap party political games", and accused Mr Pöttering of taking the results of the elections for granted.

Behind the row lies a difference over the choice of the next commission president and the extent to which MEPs should influence the selection. A key issue is whether the UK, France and Germany can agree on a joint candidate. MEPs have never exercised their right to veto a commission president.