Ian Traynor and David Gow in Brussels
The Guardian, Wednesday February 20 2008
Tony Blair's hopes of becoming Europe's first president are running into mounting opposition across the EU, with Germany determined to stymie the former prime minister.
A "Stop Blair" website run by pro-Europeans has launched a petition against him; a transnational, cross-party caucus in the European parliament is forming to campaign against a Blair presidency; senior officials in Brussels are privately dismissive about the new post going to a Briton; and senior diplomats in European capitals also doubt that Blair is the right person for the post being created under Europe's new reform treaty.
"There was surprise in Berlin when Blair's name came up so soon," said a European ambassador. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany admires Blair and has "great personal sympathy for Tony", he added.
"But more generally the German political elite would be puzzled by the idea of Tony Blair. His track record on EU matters is not so great. There is unease about a Briton at the top in that job. And then personally with Blair, there's the Iraq thing."