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BRUSSELS European Union plans extraordinary summit to pick leader

November 19, 2009 - BRUSSELS

Providing there are no last hour setbacks for the new Lisbon Treaty, which is aimed at streamling the operations of the 27-nation bloc and boosting its clout on the world stage, European Union leaders will hold an extra summit in 2009. Its purpose is to select an EU president and foreign minister, who will head a new EU diplomatic corps. Former British prime minister Tony Blair was favored to win the presidency, but his lead is slipping away as the number of contenders grows.

The leaders also want to select members of the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, so that the European Parliament can confirm them at its December session and take office with the president on 1 Jan. The president is chosen by a vote of EU leaders in a system that allocates more votes to larger countries. There is no formal nomination process. According to the Guardian newspaper in Britain, Blair's record on the Iraq war and the fact that Britain is outside the single currency eurozone and the passport-free Schengen system are weighing against him. His rivals include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Belgium Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Date confirmed Nov/09

Blair has not given up on EU presidency (FT 31 Oct 2009)

How Angela Merkel quietly sank Tony Blair's bid to become EU president (Guardian 29 Oct 2009)

Date written/update: 2009-11-19