Blair and Merkel top EU-wide poll

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A poll by Harris Interactive found most European citizens consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the most influential leader in Europe, while Tony Blair is currently the preferred candidate for the job of EU President. However, a large proportion say they would prefer the job not to be created at all.

A majority of French (68%), Spanish (57%) and Germans (57%), regard Germany as the leading country in Europe today, according to the survey, published on 4 April. The poll explored a variety of issues, including who has the potential to be the next President of Europe. It was conducted online among a total of 6,478 adults (aged 16-64) in France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy and the United States. 

Asked about concrete leaders, Europeans strongly favour Angela Merkel, who leads the chart in European countries. She is considered to be the most influential leader in Europe by 38% of the French, 29% of the Germans, 30% of the Spanish, 27% of the Italians and 18% of the British. Nicolas Sarkozy scores 18% in his own country, 10% in Germany, 16% in Spain, 13% in Italy and 9% in Great Britain. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a modest rating of 1% in France, 3% in Germany, 7% in Spain and 11% in Italy. A big difference is obvious regarding the perceptions of the Americans, who consider Brown the most influential leader in Europe with 23%, compared with 8% for Merkel and 9% for Sarkozy. 

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is considered to be the most influential European leader by 8% of the French, 11% of the Germans, 6% of the Spanish and 11% of the Italians. 6% of the Americans see him as the most influential leader in Europe. 

Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg is the only leader considered to be a possible contender for the job of president, according to the ranking. But he is credited with only 1% in France, 2% in Germany, 1% in Italy and less than 1% in Spain and the UK. 

Asked “If you were to vote today for a President of Europe, who would you chose?,” most Europeans answered “Former British PM Tony Blair”. Blair is considered fit for the job by 8% of the French and Spanish, 4% of the Germans, 13% of the British and Italians and 15% of the Americans. Former Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez scores high in his country (24%), but is almost entirely neglected by the other nations. The names of two Eastern Europeans appear: Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, and Bronislaw Geremek, a Polish politician, but their scores are modest.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, strongly supported the idea of “President Blair” towards the end of last year. But several opinion makers have rejected the notion that Tony Blair could ever be the first Council president. Some argue that Mr. Blair forfeited the right to be considered a true European when he followed the US into the Iraq war, which brought about divisions along an ‘Old Europe-New Europe’ fault line. 

Moreover, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht recently poured cold water on Blair’s bid to become the European Union’s first full-time president. De Gucht said Belgium would not accept a candidate from a country that does not fully participate in all EU policies, including the euro currency and the bloc’s passport-free zone. Britain has opted out of both and also maintains its so-called ‘red lines’ on policing, justice and internal affairs. 

Meanwhile, a large proportion of Europeans believe “there should be no President of Europe”: 21% in France, 32% in Germany, 46% in the UK, 14% in Italy and 16% in Spain. 

Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, which EU leaders agreed upon in December after the failure of a proposed EU constitution, the heads of state and government are to choose a president of the European Council for a two-and-a-half year term, renewable once. The Lisbon Treaty, which is set to be ratified by 1 January 2009, also envisages retaining the presidency of the European Commission. 

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