independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Enda is talk of EU as he is linked to top position

Diplomats ask if Kenny wants role

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

EUROPEAN diplomats based in Dublin are bluntly asking officials in Government Buildings if Taoiseach Enda Kenny is interested in taking a top post in Brussels next year, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The success of Ireland's EU presidency has put Mr Kenny at the centre of early speculation about the appointments of the head of the European Commission or European Council.

Last week, the renowned French daily newspaper Le Monde said Mr Kenny and Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen were "discreetly positioned'' in the race to be next commission president.

Over recent months, when ambassadors from EU countries were attending meetings, they asked bemused civil servants if Mr Kenny intended to put himself forward.

"What the Ferrero Rocher set are picking up on is the political interest. The ambassadors systematically ask straight out, saying the Taoiseach's name is being mentioned and does he have an interest? They don't get an answer. But they ask, alright," a government source said.

Although Mr Kenny has not been asked directly about a move, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is believed to have him on her shortlist for a post.

Fine Gael is a part of the European People's Party (EPP), the same European grouping as Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party.

The EPP is likely to get one of the two posts when they are up for grabs next year.

"She needs a non-threatening politician . . . She does regard him and that's not just activated by his spin doctors. He would be absolutely finished if he went for it and then didn't get it," a Fine Gael minister said.

"She's very favourable of our man in every way. They get on very well. She is a very organised, methodical politician.

"She'll address this question when it arises," a Government source close to Mr Kenny said.

The minister added: "I think he is concentrated on the job here. He likes the job. He feels the country is making progress."

The Taoiseach and his leadership style are well known to many EU leaders as he has been attending EPP meetings for over a decade.

He ticks a lot of boxes as someone who comes from a small country and has an understanding of countries in economic difficulties.

"There's a multiplicity of reasons. There are few people who would be acceptable to northern and southern states in Europe. He would be regarded in the other peripheral countries and the core countries. You are getting someone who could straddle both," the source added.

Mr Kenny is likely to come under increased scrutiny over the coming months, particularly when the EPP Congress, which will be attended by Ms Merkel, is held in the National Convention Centre in Dublin in February, ahead of the European elections.

But a senior minister said the Taoiseach wouldn't be entertaining any move.

"He has no interest in the job in Europe. He wants to get out of the bailout and win a second term. That's it."

Fionnan Sheahan

Sunday Independent

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