Riga - One former and one current president from two Baltic states emerged Wednesday as potential candidates for the new position of European Union president. Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis gave tacit support to the candidacy of former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Meanwhile, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the 55-year-old incumbent president of Estonia, was also mentioned as a possible candidate Wednesday.
"The prime minister believes that Vike-Freiberga has experience in international diplomacy, she is held in high esteem in the EU and is well-suited for the post of the president," said Liga Krapane, Dombrovskis' spokeswoman.
Daina Lasmane, a spokeswoman for Vike-Freiberga, told the Baltic News Service that the ex-president would be willing to run for the post if Latvia nominated her.
Vike-Freiberga served two terms as Latvian president before retiring from day-to-day politics with sky-high approval ratings domestically and a reputation as a strongly pro-EU intellectual among the diplomatic community.
Now 72, Vike-Freiberga could find her age counts against her. But a female candidate would look good for the EU's gender-equality credentials.
Estonian President Ilves was also described as a strong candidate.
Writing in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, infuential Polish policymaker Jacek Saryusz-Wolski commented: "He is a very intelligent politician who was educated in the US, but no one would doubt him being a European."A president from a smaller member state could find broader support from EU members than a candidate from a large one, and Ilves would make a great double act with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who could become the EU's foreign policy head, Saryusz-Wolski argued.
"Bildt and Ilves share similar views with Poland in trans-Atlantic matters as well as in Eastern policy questions," he said.
In response to the suggestion, Ilves would neither confirm nor deny that he would be willing to stand as a candidate if nominated.
He told the German News Agency dpa: "I am honoured that Jacek Saryusz-Wolski holds Estonia's contribution in the European Union in such high regard."
He backed the idea that the EU's smaller states should be represented, but he added, "It's not yet the time to ask these questions. Clearly such positions are not distributed based on someone's thoughts or wishes."
Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, the current six-month rotational system for the presidency of the European Council would be replaced with a permanent president.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been mentioned in connection with the job, but he is seen by some as a divisive figure.
Diplomats from smaller EU countries hold that the president's main task should be to mediate between the conflicting interests of the EU's 27 member states - a role for which Vike-Frieberga or Ilves could qualify.