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Cablegate: Despite the Rumors, Irish Pm Ahern Not

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Despite the Rumors, Irish PM Ahern Not
Likely as the Next President of the EU

1. (SBU) Summary: European and Irish media have
labeled Irish PM Ahern a front runner for the EU
Commission president. Ahern, one of the EU's longest
serving PMs, has won wide approval for his management
thus far of the EU Presidency, and his profile in
Europe has never been higher. However, Ahern has, on
more than one occasion, ruled himself out of the
running, and we believe him when he says he will not
move to Brussels. Current European Parliament
president (and Irishman) Pat Cox is not seen here as
emerging as a compromise choice. End Summary.

Ahern's EU Star In The Ascendancy

2. (SBU) When Europe's media focused on Ireland for
the May 1st accession celebrations, PM Bertie Ahern's
name first cropped up as a candidate for the post of
EU Commission president. (Commission President
Romano Prodi will step down from his job in October
2004.) Rumors in the Irish media spread when the
Financial Times Germany (May 13), weighed in with a
profile of Ahern, emphasizing his legendary powers of
negotiation and stating how this would qualify him
for the role of Commission president. The "Times" of
London followed suit.

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3. (SBU) In many respects, Ahern would be an ideal
candidate. He has rolled up his sleeves over the
past five months and thrown himself into the job of
President of the European Council, successfully
defusing intra-EU friction from the previous
Presidency, overseeing the smooth accession of 10 new
EU members, and generating optimism on concluding the
IGC and agreeing a constitutional treaty by the June
16-17 EU Summit. He has a wealth of EU knowledge
from his position as one of the longest-serving EU
leaders, and an Irish Commission President should be
broadly acceptable to larger states like Germany and
France. Ahern also enjoys an excellent personal
relationship with British PM Blair, forged in the
Northern Ireland peace process.

But There's No Place Like Home

4. (SBU) However, when asked by a leader of one of
the opposition parties in the Parliament on May 19
whether he would be seeking the position of President
of the Commission, Ahern responded with a very
definite "no." A savvy political operator, Ahern
might well be playing coy were it not for the fact
that Ahern is very much a domestic political animal.
Until now, he has kept foreign travel to a minimum
throughout his public life -- so much so, there are
stories of Ahern traveling long and late to return to
Dublin for the night. Although a committed European,
he has never immersed himself in EU politics, prior
to the Presidency. Nor does he speak French; he is a
genuine "old boy" from north Dublin, with a distinct
accent (in English and in Irish) to match. Most
observers bet that Ahern will seek another five-year
term as PM in the next general election in 2007.
While hard to predict now, Ahern's coalition would
have a real chance at a third term, if the economic
upswing continues.

If Not Bertie, Who?

5. (SBU) When asked, Ahern stated that the GOI
could well support the candidature of outgoing
European Parliament President Pat Cox, or any Irish
candidate who could demonstrate that s/he had the
support of other member states. It was a clever
formulation in response. As EU President, Ireland is
not supposed to lobby for any candidate. We note,
however, that Cox, an Independent MEP, is not close
to Ahern's Fianna Fail party. Instead, Ahern is
likely to nominate a serving cabinet minister,
possibly Finance minister Charlie McCreevy, as
Ireland's next Commissioner.


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