Should beleaguered PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt fancy a change of scenery, she stands a chance of succeeding José Manuel Barroso as the next European Commission president in 2014.
At least that was the message in many national media outlets yesterday after the Financial Times included the Danish PM in a list of likely candidates that could replace Barroso at the next elections.
The Financial Times article stated that there had been “some chatter” about Thorning-Schmidt in Brussels.
“Thorning-Schmidt has seen her poll numbers plunge at home, but was well-regarded during Denmark’s recent turn at the helm of the EU presidency,” the article’s author, Joshua Chaffin, wrote. “Might make a nice landing spot.”
Chaffin’s prediction was jumped on by Danish media who rushed to consult experts on whether Thorning-Schmidt could really ‘do-an-Anders-Fogh’ (former PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen left his post to become NATO general secretary) and leapfrog into an international position after running Denmark.
Oft-consulted EU expert Marlene Wind from the University of Copenhagen told Berlingske newspaper that Thorning-Schmidt could indeed be considered for such a high-ranking position.
“The general picture in Brussels is that Helle Thorning-Schmidt is a very solid candidate for the post,” Wind said. “She has sat in the European Parliament, has en education from Brügge and at recent meetings I have attended with French diplomats and people from the EU Commission, the Danish Presidency was praised.”
But what was the insider information that Chaffin possessed that linked Thorning-Schmidt to the post? A leaked memo perhaps? An anonymous statement from a high-ranking EU official?
“It was nothing more than a bit of informed speculation,” Chaffin, the FT’s Brussels correspondent, told Politiken newspaper, adding that he was surprised by how far Danish media had run with the story.
“The article is on an informal blog that is written in the hope of starting a debate about who might be the next Commission president. I have been talking to people around Brussels and some have mentioned her name among a long list of others that they consider interesting.”
Thorning-Schmidt was one of nine names listed in Chaffin’s blog entry that he wrote after Barroso recently suggested that political parties should nominate a commission president in order to improve the democratic process.
Whether Thorning-Schmidt really is a candidate is impossible to say. A lot can happen before 2014 and Rasmussen famously denied any connection with the NATO post until almost the moment he was appointed.
What she can take away from this, however, is that despite leading a party that remains unpopular even though the government has been surprisingly diligent, people do still like her … in Brussels.