Nicolas Sarkozy endorses Tony Blair in EU job|
By Toby Helm and Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 2:07am GMT 10/01/2008
Tony Blair is to return to the front line of
European politics in Paris this weekend - amid growing signs of a
campaign to install him as the European Union's first fully fledged
Mr Blair has agreed to speak alongside Nicolas
Sarkozy, the President of France, who is actively promoting the
former prime minister for a role that would make him the most
influential figure in EU affairs.
Natural for the job: Tony Blair is being tipped to
become the President of the EU Council of
Mr Sarkozy told The Daily Telegraph he held talks
with Mr Blair over Christmas while both were holidaying in the
Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh.
While he refused to be
drawn about the detail of their discussions, Mr Sarkozy said he was
"delighted" that Mr Blair had agreed to attend the conference of his
centre-Right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP).
Mr Blair's speech will be his most important since
he left Downing Street last June and he is expected to dwell on the
EU's role in world affairs.
It will be followed by his attendance at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month and an
appearance soon after at a meeting of French socialists.
Hailing his decision, the UMP's website says the
meeting is "assuming a particular and exceptional character with the
participation of the former prime minister of Great Britain, Tony
Gordon Brown is likely to be less enthusiastic about
the prospect of his old rival returning to centre stage - both
within the EU and at the Davos gathering attended by world statesmen
and business leaders.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said he remained "fully
focused" on his job as a Middle Peace Envoy for the quartet of
powers - the EU, United Nations, United States and Russia.
But he refused to rule Mr Blair out for the new EU
post, which will begin in January next year.
The President of the EU Council of Ministers - which
could be taken on a three-day working week - will carry a package
worth around £200,000 a year and would make Mr Blair the most
important figure in EU politics.
Last October, Mr Sarkozy said choosing Mr Blair
would be a "smart move" because he remained one the EU's most
Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said
last night that many in Europe thought Mr Blair was a "natural for
However, he said Mr Blair's support for the war in
Iraq and the UK's decisions not to take part in core EU projects,
such as the euro, might count against him when EU leaders vote later