Monday, 7 April 2008

Poll: Merkel most influential European leader

An interesting EU-wide poll came out today that will have big implications for who is chosen as the first so-called “President of Europe.”

The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive among adults in the largest EU countries, found that overwhelmingly most European citizens consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the most influential leader in Europe.

Perhaps the most interesting take-away from the poll is how much better she scored than her closest rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, in his own country. Though Sarkozy has ambitious plans for reforming and strengthening Europe, only 18 percent of French people consider him to be the most influential European leader, while a whopping 38 percent would give that moniker to Merkel. A full 68 percent of the French regard Germany as the leading county of Europe today. With relations between Merkel and Sarkozy notoriously cold, the poll can hardly be encouraging news for the ambitious French leader.

 The timing of the poll is significant because it will soon be time to select the first President of the European Council (dubbed the “President of Europe” by European media), a position created by the Treaty if Lisbon. Merkel’s Christian Democrat party may lost power in the upcoming elections and she may be out of a job, making her a high-profile candidate for the new presidential position.
However even though the survey showed Europeans see Merkel as the most influential European leader, the survey respondents still indicated they prefer to see Tony Blair in the role. Asked "If you were to vote today for a President of Europe, who would you chose?," most Europeans answered "Former British PM Tony Blair".

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the other big name in the running for the position, is considered to be the most influential European leader by only 8% of the French, 11% of the Germans, 6% of the Spanish and 11% of the Italians.

From an Atlantic perspective, an amusing result of the survey was its concurrent polling of Americans on the same question. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown scored dismally in the survey, with only 1% of France, 3% of Germans, 7% of Spanish and 11% of Italians calling him the most influential European leader. Not surprising considering his exhibited disinterest in European affairs. However when polling Americans, a majority said Brown was the most influential leader in Europe. Evidence of a 'special relationship'?

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