Can Harry Potter save Europe?

Agenda can exclusively reveal that the next president of the European Commission is likely to be a man known by that nickname, Jan Peter Balkenende, former prime minister of the Netherlands. Not, as it turns out, to be one of the "leading candidates" who have been jostling to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso.

Except that "likely to be" may be too bold. The tortuous process of anointing the next head of the EC reduces predictions to guesses. But Brussels-watchers like Balkenende as a compromise candidate whose centre-right reflects the biggest bloc in the Parliament, and whose moderate reformist background will be acceptable to David Cameron. Leading candidates, including the Luxembourgish ex-PM Jean-Claude Juncker and the German socialist leader of the parliament Martin Shultz, are out of the picture for typical Brussels reasons such as the undying hatred of Angela Merkel.

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