Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende may continue to deny he is a candidate to be the first ‘president’ of Europe but his name is being heard more and more often, according to most of the Dutch papers on Friday.
Hot favourite and former British prime minister Tony Blair’s chances appear to be fading and Nos tv says sources close to Balkenende are coming to accept he will move to Brussels.
On Thursday, Joseph Daul, the head of the Christian Democrats in the European parliament said Balkenende was ‘a very good candidate’.
The Volkskrant quotes officials from the prime minister’s office saying there has been a sharp increase in interview requests, all of which have been refused.
But speaking at the European ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Balkenende said it is ‘still too soon’ to talk about the new job of permanent chairman of the European council. Formally, the position will only be discussed if all EU members have signed the Lisbon treaty. The Czech Republic is the only country which still has to do so.
‘But if the microphones are off, it is all everyone is talking about,’ one delegate told the Volkskrant.
Balkenende himself makes a ‘relaxed impression’ at the Brussels meeting, the Volkskrant says: ‘He chats with German chancellor Angela Merkel and makes French president Nicholas Sarkozy laugh.’
A poll for tv show EénVandaag yesterday said a majority of the Dutch think Balkenende should complete his fourth term as Dutch prime minister. If he does go to Brussels, most people think there should be a general election.
But sources told Nos foreign minister Maxime Verhagen is lined up to take over as prime minister if Balkenende is appointed to the European job.
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