Leaders in last-minute attempt to decide top European Council roles
Opposing groups try to find consensus on who should take presidential and foreign minister roles ahead of Brussels summit
The leaders of Europe's main political tribes conferred in Brussels this afternoon in an attempt to hammer out a last-minute consensus on who should be the top two people running the EU's new Lisbon regime, ahead of a crucial Brussels summit.
While Christian democratic government leaders, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Brussels, Gordon Brown found himself isolated at a session of the seven centre-left leaders ahead of this evening's summit.
The centre-left leaders, grouped in the Party of European Socialists (PES), hope to secure the new post of European foreign minister, with Italian Massimo D'Alema and Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos as their frontrunners.
Last night Merkel provoked anger in other European capitals with the announcement that Germany and France are to strike a deal on who they want for the post of president.
Merkel stated for the first time that she and Sarkozy intended to agree on a common candidate, believed to be the Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy.
The Belgian shares the strong opposition of both Sarkozy and Merkel to Turkey joining the EU. In a debate in the Belgian parliament five years ago, Van Rompuy made plain that he viewed the EU as a Christian club with no room for a large Muslim country such as Turkey.
"Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe," Van Rompuy said, years before he became Belgian prime minister. "The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey."
The EU is divided over Turkey, with France, Germany, and Austria leading hostility to membership, while Britain, Sweden and east European countries are strong supporters of Turkey in Europe.
Van Rompuy's antipathy to Turkey earned him support yesterday for the EU job from the Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, party on the extreme anti-immigrant right wing in Flanders.
But news of a Franco-German alliance triggered anger in some European capitals.
"We're not having a replay of the bad old days when the big guys fixed all the deals," said a Polish official.
Poland campaigned for greater glasnost, to open up the contest for the key jobs. But they have now conceded defeat, although they claim to have the support of 10 of the 27 EU countries. "We had a go," said the Polish official. "We wanted a degree of transparency to address the sceptics. And lots of countries feel that these appointments are just being made over their heads. There's always been a suspicion about the way these deals are done in the EU. This is a genuine example. It puts everyone to shame." [...]
The Lisbon "treaty" is basically the EU constitution that was rejected by European voters. The voters don't elect the EU president, either. Sounds like the "Old" way of doing things, no?
Anyway, it seems lots of people are angry, as the drama continues.
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