Friday 18 August 2017

Kenny tipped for plum job as head of the EU

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is being tipped as a frontrunner to take over as EU chief when the powerful position comes up next year.

He is being linked with two top positions in the European Union in an analysis of the contenders by an influential Brussels-based opinion-shaper.

The Taoiseach is viewed as a frontrunner for the powerful post of European Council president, as he is seen as "capable but not a big name with an ego".

The European Council president chairs the meetings of EU leaders where all the major decisions are made.

The post is up for grabs in December 2014.

And Mr Kenny has an outside shot for European Commission president, the head of the EU cabinet, which becomes available next June.

The Taoiseach's name is being mentioned following the success of Ireland's EU presidency, where he "impressed in his handling of the EU budget negotiations".

The frontrunners for the elite posts are identified by Burson-Marsteller, one of Europe's leading public affairs and communications consultancy firms.

"Kenny has a good profile for the European Council job in particular – a consensus-builder (he is in a coalition government with Labour) from a small member state who has had some success at EU level with his successful steering of negotiations on the EU's long-term budget during the Irish presidency.

"Possibly a better bet for the Council job than for the Commission," Burson-Marsteller says.

Mr Kenny's spokesman said the Taoiseach's "sole focus" was on his current post.

He continued: "We don't comment

on speculation" – while declining to rule out the move. He added: "The Taoiseach is completely focused on the job in hand, which is exiting the bailout and creating jobs."

The European Council president will be picked directly by the 28 EU leaders. They will select a current or former EU leader, so the candidates come from a limited pool.

The centre-right European People's Party – Fine Gael's group in Europe – will have a strong say in the carve-up of top European posts, a process which is deeply politicised.

The Taoiseach has been attending meetings of EU leaders in the EPP since he became Fine Gael leader in 2002, granting him high-level access to decision-makers.

He is now one of the longest-serving members of the group and has built up a strong relationship with many of the leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Kenny will also host the EPP European elections conference in Dublin next year.

Although that gathering will focus on May's European elections, the candidates for the big jobs will also be discussed in the background.

Mr Kenny is viewed as a candidate with similar attributes to the current president, Herman Van Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister.

"The opaque nature of the process makes it more difficult to predict, but the 'Van Rompuy' model of a low-profile but effective conciliator is likely to be followed, with EU leaders preferring not to be outshone," according to Burson-Marsteller.

CONSTRUCTIVE

The highly respected and well-connected lobbyists put their appraisal together from contacts with politicians and officials across Europe in the EU institutions and member states.

The company is one of the largest, if not the largest, consultancy firm in Brussels.

Mr Kenny is at the top of the list of potential candidates, along with the prime ministers of Finland and Denmark and former prime ministers of Finland, Denmark and Spain.

Barton-Marsteller government relations director David O'Leary said: "We have been told by people in the institutions and elsewhere that he is quite well thought of as a result of the Irish presidency.

"He is seen as someone who is a capable person. He is not a big name with an ego. He is fairly well liked across his peers in the European Council.

"It is on the back of a good EU presidency. Ireland is seen as a constructive player and member of the EU, notwithstanding the defeats of EU referenda."

Irish Independent

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