» Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Asked to confirm the reportedly on-the-record view of a senior British official in Brussels that the Prime Minister did not support the candidature of Guy Verhofstadt as European Commission President in succession to Romano Prodi, the PMOS said that he was not aware of the remarks and could not therefore comment. Serious discussions about candidates for this important post were continuing and it was obviously better for them to take place in private between the EU Heads of Government. Asked if the Prime Minister did not support Mr Verhofstadt because he was too anti-American, the PMOS said that he had absolutely no intention of getting drawn into a public discussion about the merits or demerits of individual candidates. Suffice to say that we recognised the significance of the job and that it should be up to EU Heads of Government to discuss any nominations privately. Put to him that the discussions did not appear to be taking place in private if British officials were briefing in public in Brussels, the PMOS said that he would brief in his way, others would brief in theirs. He underlined that we would not be discussing the individual candidates in public. It was a discussion which would be had around the table in Brussels by the EU Heads of Government. Asked to explain why it was perfectly fine for the French and Germans to indicate their support for Mr Verhofstadt, whereas the UK was unable even to hint that we might be less enthusiastic about his candidature than Antonio Vittorino’s for example, the PMOS said we would stick to our traditional approach to these matters and leave the discussions to be held in private. Asked if, “in general terms”, the UK would favour having someone who was avowedly federalist as European Commission President, the PMOS said that our position on the Treaty and Constitution was very clear. If an agreement was reached, we believed that it would reflect our view that Europe should work together as a group of nations who co-operated on matters of common interest. That was a view widely shared within the EU, particularly by the new Accession countries.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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