EU leaders delay appointments for top positions, but von der Leyen likely to secure second term


EU leaders met in Brussels without reaching a final agreement on candidates for the bloc's top positions. However, several leaders praised European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's record, indicating she is on track to secure their endorsement for a second term at a summit later this month.

EU leaders have postponed their final decision on the European Union's top jobs to a summit at the end of June, but a general feeling that Ursula von der Leyen would return as European Commission president was apparent following their informal talks in Brussels. 

Briefing reporters afterwards their meeting on Monday, European Council  President Charles Michel insisted the leaders' dinner was never intended to seal a final deal on the EU's top three jobs – heading the commission, chairing summits, and stewarding the bloc's diplomacy.

"It was a good conversation. It goes in the right direction, I think," Michel said, calling it a "collective duty to make a decision" when leaders return to Brussels for a summit on 27 and 28 June.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed Michel's assessment, saying he expected a deal next week.

"Things need to simmer a little, but we are not far off," he told reporters.

Balancing act

Far-right gains in EU-wide elections early this month – which triggered snap polls and political upheaval in France – have focused minds around the positions helming the bloc, specifically negotiated with an eye to geographic and political balance.

Several leaders signalled a consensus was forming that would hand von der Leyen a second term, put the Socialist former Portuguese premier Antonio Costa at the head of the Council, and have Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas succeed Josep Borrell as the EU's high representative on foreign policy.

Hopes of an early agreement floundered after diplomats said leaders from von der Leyen's centre-right European People's Party (EPP) – the biggest group in the new EU parliament – appeared to be pushing for a bigger slice of the positions. 

Negotiators for the three main political groups in the EU – the EPP, Socialists and Democrats (S&D) as well as the centrist Renew Europe grouping – have reportedly reached broad agreement on "the three names", with the devil now in the detail. 

The question of balancing power between EPP and S&D – the two largest political groupings in the European parliament – is believed to have prevented a deal from being announced.

For their part, the leaders of Croatia, Finland and the Netherlands likewise indicated that the debate around the trio of names appeared all-but-settled.

Big tombola

Speaking on Monday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, "We will not have a rerun of 2019, when it was a big tombola, and everything was up for grabs for three days. That's not the case here. It seems to be much more clear."

Naming the 46-year-old Kallas – an outspoken Kremlin critic – as high representative for the bloc's foreign policy – would send a strong signal to the eastern European

To secure the nod from EU leaders, von der Leyen, needs support from a "qualified majority" of 15 out of 27 countries, covering at least 65 percent of the bloc's population.

The leaders also discussed the next five-year legislative cycle, with a stress on common values, defence and economic competitiveness.

They will also receive a report from the European Central Bank, on boosting the EU's economic prospects.

In a speech on Friday, former ECB president Mario Draghi said the bloc needed cheaper energy and a capital markets union to steer private savings towards investment.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024