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EU leaders fail at first attempt to fill top jobs

Image: European Union

Who should fill roles including European Commission president is still to be informally agreed

The EU’s political leaders were unable to decide who should be allocated the top jobs in the bloc’s political institutions in their first attempt at settling the issue.

Heads of EU national governments met as the European Council on 17 June, together with Council president Charles Michel (pictured), European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament president Roberta Metsola.

They were trying to decide who should fill those three roles for the upcoming political term, as well as who should become the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, based on the results of the Parliament election earlier this month.

The Commission presidency in particular is an important role for research, innovation and higher education, because the holder of the post has an overarching responsibility for EU policies and selects who from the national commissioner nominees should be given responsibility for those and other policy areas.

Clear favourites but no agreement

Von der Leyen’s European People’s Party group won the most seats in the election, making her best placed in most people’s eyes to take on the Commission presidency for the next five years.

Metsola, a Maltese MEP also in the EPP, looks set to remain president of the Parliament, while the Socialists and Democrats group, which came second in the poll, is promoting former Portuguese prime minister António Costa for the role of Council president.

Kaja Kallas, a liberal who is the current prime minister of Estonia, is reportedly favourite for the foreign policy role.

National leaders were expected to informally agree on those nominees but failed to do so.

In a press release, the Council said that they “started discussions” and that Michel would continue them, including by initiating talks with the Parliament and EU countries.

More talks needed

Michel said that von der Leyen had “shared with us some thoughts about the future of the EU” and that national leaders had then “exchanged views”.

“It was a good conversation and goes in the right direction. There was no agreement tonight at this stage. The political parties are playing a role and that is natural in such a political moment. They made proposals, and in the days to come we will work further and prepare the decisions that we need to make,” he said.

According to media reports, part of the reason for the lack of agreement was that EPP representatives suggested that the Socialists and Democrats group should get the Council presidency for only 2.5 years, after which they suggested it should go to one of their politicians to reflect the EPP coming top in the election.

Some right-wing leaders also reportedly feel that the discussions do not sufficiently reflect their increased success in the poll.

Decisions are now expected at the next Council meeting on 27 and 28 June. After that, the nominations will go to the Parliament for acceptance or rejection.