Bildt tipped as EU foreign chief

Sweden's newly appointed foreign minister Carl Bildt has been tipped as a likely candidate for the job of the EU's external affairs chief.

Brussels news agency EUobserver reports that Javier Solana, who currently holds the post of EU High Representative, will soon step down from the job for health reasons.

The agency said that the former Swedish prime minister was one of a handful of candidates tipped for the job, with others being Austria’s outgoing prime minister Wolfgang Schussel, former Slovak leader Miklas Dzurinda and EU industry commissioner Günter Verheugen.

While a number of the other rumoured candidates were said to be unacceptable to either the French or the British, Bildt would potentially be acceptable to all sides. EUobserver claimed that ‘insiders’ had said that Bildt was ‘not hiding his ambition.

Nina Ersman, head of the Swedish foreign ministry’s press service, said that Bildt would not comment on the speculation, and pointed out that he had only just been appointed foreign minister. But, she added, “I have never heard him say that that is his ambition.”

“The post is not open at the moment, and this is not on the agenda right now,” Ersman said.

Sweden’s new prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt appointed Bildt foreign minister earlier this month, following the centre-right Alliance’s victory in September’s general election. The move was widely praised by political commentators.

Quite how attractive the EU post would be for Bildt remains open to question. While Solana has had a high profile, the role is often viewed as toothless. According to EUobserver, there are theories that the Spaniard’s real reason for wanting to step down is that EU member states refused to give him a mandate to act. All EU foreign policy is run by the member states, and any country can veto joint EU action.