Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Guy Verhofstadt en Chris Patten uit de race voor opvolging Prodi (en)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - European leaders have ended two days of talks in Brussels without agreement on who should be the next president of the European Commission.

After the talks, current council president Bertie Ahern said that a decision had been postponed. He said that Dublin would begin on Monday to consider a new date to meet and would like to finish the negotiations by the end of June when the Irish EU Presidency ends.

But Mr Ahern faces a packed agenda, with EU summits with Japan, the US and NATO all happening within the next fortnight.

Talks over the appointment of the person to replace Romano Prodi at the head of the Brussels executive when he steps down in October were dominated by Anglo-French wrangling.

France backed by Germany and others initially pushed for Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt for the post, a man considered too federalist for London and too anti-American by many of the new member states.

The UK initially gave its tacit support to British external relations commissioner Chris Patten. The French President on Thursday said the candidate should come from a country inside the euro and Schengen open borders zone, ruling out a UK candidate.

The Irish Taoiseach confirmed that Messers Patten and Verhoftstady were "out of the race now".

Who is in and who is out

Late on Friday, one person emerged as clear favourite for the job - Portuguese premier Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.

However, with various candidates being considered and reconsidered throughout the days and perhaps weeks ahead, the field may well open up once more.

Mr Durao Barroso may face opposition for his organization of a summit in the Azores last March, which saw George W. Bush meet with his principle European allies who favoured the execution of the war in Iraq.

This is likely to make him unpopular with the German and French delegations.

According to Portuguese officials quoted by the news agency Lusa Mr Durao Barroso is "categorically" not a candidate.

French foreign minister Michel Barnier was also considered as a candidate, although his candidature appears to have been dismissed.

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