LONDON: Silvio Berlusconi, seemingly oblivious to the possibility that his support might be counterproductive, has enthusiastically backed Tony Blair for first president of Europe.In a crisp, six-line letter to the right-leaning newspaper Il Foglio, the Italian Prime Minister has delivered what could be deemed the political kiss of death, saying the former British prime minister has ”all the right credentials in his hands” to take on the position.This should occur, he wrote, as soon as it is legally and politically possible to ensure that a ”great political legacy made with courage, balance and prudence without uncertainty” is not lost and is used to help the renewal of the governance of the European Union.Il Foglio, based in Milan and part-owned by Mr Berlusconi’s estranged wife, Veronica Lario, also reported that he had phoned Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, to make clear his support for his old friend and ally.While jockeying for the new position of President of the European Council has primarily occurred behind closed doors – and Mr Blair has yet to declare his hand formally – he now appears to have emerged as the favoured candidate after Ireland’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.Only the former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, a socialist, is seen as a real rival to Mr Blair though Jean-Claude Juncker, the veteran centre-right Luxembourg prime minister, has also been mentioned.But British newspapers, already generally hostile – and in the case of The Times openly scathing about Mr Berlusconi – have responded with derision about his support for Mr Blair. All returned to Mr Berlusconi’s support for Mr Blair over the decision to deploy troops in the Iraq war during the Bush administration.The British media also recounted with some relish the 2004 summer holiday spent by the Blair family at Mr Berlusconi’s villa in Sardinia. The Italian PM, apparently recuperating from a hair transplant, was photographed in various coloured bandanna-style head coverings. He treated his guests to his now famous musical evenings and a fireworks display which spelt out ”Viva Tony”.Earlier this year, Cherie Blair said that her husband had asked her to stand between him and Mr Berlusconi’s kerchief-adorned head suggesting otherwise the British media ”would kill us”.She told an Italian TV host in May that the scarf was a ”real surprise”: ”When we arrived we were a little surprised to see Silvio with this sort of scarf on his head, that famous bandanna. It was supposed to be a private visit and he told us he’d had some problems with his head but it was obvious to us that he’d had a hair transplant,” she said.
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