Brussels: Britain's David Miliband has emerged as the man to beat in the race to become the EU's first foreign-policy supremo, a top diplomat has confirmed.
But the race to become the EU's first president is still too close to call, with the Belgian and Dutch premiers, Herman van Rompuy and Jan Peter Balkenende, the names most touted in diplomatic circles, Poland's ambassador to the EU, Jan Tombinski told journalists on Thursday.
"The name of David Miliband is the most quoted name in this (diplomatic) circle, probably for the reason that Tony Blair's chances are going down," Tombinski said.
The EU's Lisbon Treaty, which is to come into force Dec 1, creates the posts of president of the EU and "high representative", who serves as a member of the council of EU member states and vice president of the EU's executive, the European Commission.
The high representative is seen as an EU foreign minister in all but name.
EU leaders are expected to hold a summit next week to decide who should get the top jobs. Miliband emerged last week as a possible candidate, alongside Italy's former premier, Massimo D'Alema.
But D'Alema is viewed with suspicion in Central and Eastern Europe because of his high-profile role in Italy's one-time Communist party.
To have a former communist as the EU's first foreign minister "would be a problem" in the states of the former Warsaw Pact, Tombinski said.
"It would be better to have a person whose authority cannot be contested because of his past party affiliations," he said.
Blair had been cited as the front-runner in the race to become EU president before a summit last week, but his chances appeared to end after European conservatives and socialists agreed that the new top job should go to a right-wing politician, while the socialists claimed the high representative's job.
"The mood round the council (summit) was that Tony Blair was rarely mentioned now, but he may come back - nothing is excluded," Tombinski said.
Media reports have cited van Rompuy and Balkenende as the new favourites to become the president of the council of EU member states.
Tombinski said that Balkenende, in particular, was campaigning actively for the job via his staff, but that there was a "very open field" for the decision.
First Published: Thursday, November 05, 2009, 19:23