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EU negotiates names for top jobs

Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt
Mr Reinfeldt faces a difficult diplomatic balancing act as EU chair

Sweden's prime minister, the current chair of EU summits, says he is half-way through consultations to determine a shortlist for the new EU top jobs.

Fredrik Reinfeldt said he expected to be ready soon to call a special EU summit to appoint the permanent EU president and foreign policy chief.

The Belgian Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, has emerged as a frontrunner for the post of EU president.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband is not seeking the foreign affairs job.

He had been seen as a frontrunner for the job - among the institutional changes created by the Lisbon Treaty - even though he had said he was not "available".

But, amid continuing speculation, the BBC understands Mr Miliband told the head of the European socialists' group he was not interested in the job.

Friends have indicated Mr Miliband "sees his future in British politics".

Campaign for Blair

Candidates must be nominated by the government of one of the EU's 27 member states.

THE PRESIDENT'S ROLE
Chosen by 27 member states by qualified majority vote
Two-and-a-half-year term
Can be re-elected once
Chairs EU summits
Drives forward the work of EU Council of Ministers
Facilitates cohesion and consensus
Represents the EU on the world stage

Mr Miliband and Prime Minister Gordon Brown have been campaigning for former PM Tony Blair to get the job of president of the European Council.

But other European leaders have avoided expressing support openly for Mr Blair. There is speculation that the EU may opt for a leader from a small country who has a lower international profile, and who would act more as an enabling chairperson in Brussels.

Speaking in Berlin on Monday night, Mr Reinfeldt said he was phoning all the EU heads of state and government "to hear who they want to fill these posts".

"I am half-way through my consultations. When I have spoken to everybody and have a better overview of the situation I will invite my colleagues for an extra summit in Brussels."

The Swedish EU presidency website says "it seems increasingly likely that it will be held in November".

Revamping institutions

A third appointment will also be decided at the special summit, the new post of secretary-general for the secretariat assisting the EU Council of Ministers.

The council - chaired by a different EU member state every six months, on a rotation basis - represents the EU governments.

Under Lisbon, the president of the European Council will be appointed by the governments for a term of two-and-a-half years, renewable once. The goal is to achieve more continuity and stability in major EU policy areas.

Besides Mr Van Rompuy, leading candidates for the job are said to include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his Luxembourg counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker.

The centre-left former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema is a frontrunner for the new post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Whoever gets that job will also become vice president of the European Commission.



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