Leaders’ Talks on Top EU Jobs Fall Through, Compromise ‘Unbelievably Complicated’
A compromise put forth by France, Germany, and Spain has been rejected by the Eastern European member states, Ireland as well as the MEPs from the European People’s Party.
The negotiations on who will take the new top jobs in the institutions of the European Union have failed to produce an agreement leading the leaders of the EU member states to suspend their emergency European Council summit in Brussels.
The summit was thus ended on Monday after 20 hours of talks on the persons to become the next Presidents of the European Commission, European Council, European Parliament, the European Central Bank as well as the next High Representative on Foreign and Security Policy and other Commissioner posts.
The negotiations are set to be renewed on Tuesday morning, with outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk expected to conduct bilateral talks in the meantime to try to find a compromise.
While the largest party family, the conservative European People’s Party had thrown its weight early on behind Bavarian politician, long-time MEP Manfred Weber, and the Party of the European Socialists had backed Frans Timmermans, a Vice President in the outgoing Juncker Commission, French President Emmanuel Macron has been promoting the bid of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
It was Macron who left angry the European Council summit in Brussels on Monday, stating that the EU’s failure to reach an agreement about its top jobs was hurting its image abroad, as cited by Reuters.
While he said a deal could still be struck, the French President styled the suspension of the talks a “failure”.
“It’s just unbelievably complicated. You have so many political factions,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte with respect to the highly unusual occurrance of an European Council summit running for more than two days.
In the course of the talks, the leaders of France, Germany, and Spain had arranged a compromise under which Dutch Socialist Frans Timmermans would head the European Commission, the EU executive, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favorite, Manfred Weber would become the next President of the European Parliament, possibly later splitting the five-year term with the leader of the Liberals, Guy Verhofstadt.
Under that deal, former Vice President in the Juncker Commission, Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva, who quit in 2017 to become chief executive at the World Bank, would succeed Tusk as head of the European Council, while either Danish EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager or Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel would become the next High Representative on Foreign Policy.
The head of the German Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, is the favorite to become new President of the European Central Bank succeeding Mario Draghi.
Several Eastern European member states, however, are reported to have opposed very strongly the choice of Timmermans to head the next EC, especially Poland, Hungary, and Romania, but also the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Croatia as well as Ireland.
The nomination of the Dutch Socialist was also very unpopular with the MEPs of the European People’s Party who insisted that their party family was entitled to the top Commission job since it had the largest group in the European Parliament (although it lost dozens of seats in the May 2019 EU elections).
“The vast majority of EPP prime ministers don’t believe that we should give up the presidency quite so easily, without a fight,” Ireland’s center-right Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had told reporters on Sunday, as cited by DW.
To be appointed, the next President of the European Commission needs the support of at least 72%, i.e. 21 of the 28 member states, who must represent at least 65% of the Union’s population.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to have been more conciliatory toward the Eastern European members of the EU arguging that the views of the smaller nations must also be taken into account.
“When you have not just two partners, but three or four, the issue is not clearly defined. But a compromise must be found – historically it’s immaterial if this takes a bit longer,” Merkel said, as cited by BBC News.
Diplomatic sources are quoted as emphasizing to agree on the names for the EU top jobs as soon as possible since any further delays would provide further ground for anti-establishment groups to attack the Union as inefficient, divided, and dysfunctional.
The European Parliament is supposed to vote on the EU leaders’ EC nominee during its sessions on July 15 – 18, 2019, and the new Commission is supposed to take office as of November 1.
The European Council President is to be elected by the EU leaders by qualified majority, and should take office as of December 1, 2019.
(Banner image: Donald Tusk on Twitter)