By Martin Banks - 19th November 2009
He is the cause of a lot of resentment
Former Belgian prime minister Wilfried Martens has said that Tony Blair's chances of becoming EU president were "always a very long shot".
He also welcomed the prospect of current Belgian premier Herman Van Rompuy's appointment to the position.
Speaking at the launch of a book tracing the history of the European People's Party, Martens told this website that Blair, an early frontrunner for the president post, was "never likely" to be elected.
He said, "He is the cause of a lot of resentment over his support for the US-led invasion of Iraq and it must be pointed out that the Party of European Socialists even opposed his candidacy."
Martens, who was prime minister for four terms, added, "I think it is generally agreed that we also need a president who comes from a country that is inside the eurozone which, of course, would rule out a Briton."
Blair, who never formally declared his candidacy, has still not been ruled out of the running. However, his 'campaign' failed to garner the support of key players like French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Martens, who leads the pan-European EPP, said it would be a source of "pride" for Belgians if, as expected, Van Rompuy is elected at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.
Speaking at the same book launch, Luc Van den Brande, president of the Committee of the Regions, expressed concern that the new position could cause "confusion" with other EU presidency posts.
He said, "This is a concern. It is important that there is strong cooperation between the presidents of the EU, commission and council. Each must know from the outset exactly where their responsibility lies.
"Otherwise, there is a risk of confusion and it just will not work."
Parliament's president Jerzy Buzek told the gathering in parliament that he hoped a woman would be considered for the presidency post in future.