PM's last-ditch appeal to Merkel for Blair EU presidency

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The Independent Online

Gordon Brown will make a last-ditch appeal today to Angela Merkel to rally behind Tony Blair as the first president of Europe.

The Prime Minister – who will lobby other EU leaders at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – will tell the German Chancellor that Europe needs a "big hitter" on the world stage rather than someone to chair meetings – as some EU leaders view the new post to be created under the Treaty of Lisbon.

Meanwhile Mr Blair is reported to have made a late flurry of personal calls to EU leaders in bid to revive his campaign for the post. According to The Times, the former prime minister is believed to have spoken to José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, Brian Cowen, the Taoiseach, and Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, also in contention for the post.

Senior British officials insist that Mr Blair still has a "50-50 chance" of landing the job even though his prospects receded when some member states opposed him. They believe the German Chancellor now holds the key. The officials claim the former prime minister still enjoys the personal support of Nicolas Sarkozy but admit that the French President wants a common front with Ms Merkel. She has hinted that the EU President should come from one of the EU's smaller member states.

If Mr Blair is blocked, Britain is likely to support Mr Balkenende over Herman Van Rompuy, the Prime Minister of Belgium.