BRUSSELS, Belgium -- If all goes as expected and the Lisbon Treaty finally enters into effect in the coming months, the European Union will soon face another major challenge: electing a permanent president for the European Council.
The debate has already begun in Brussels over not only who would be the most suitable candidate for the job, but also over the functions the post should include -- a subject about which the Treaty itself is particularly vague. Opinions are divided between those who want a strong president that would be the EU's "face" to the world and those advocating for a more restrained role.
The difference reflects conflicting interests between big and small EU member states. Powerful nations favor a strong presidential figure who could help advance their international objectives, while smaller states -- such as those of the Benelux bloc and Austria -- fear that a powerful president would allow their larger counterparts to impose their own goals.