Reading Time: 3 minutes


Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

EU leaders have requested more time to reach a deal on appointing the bloc’s next slate of top officials, but after an initial negotiation on Monday evening Ursula von der Leyen was on course to secure a second term as European Commission president.

The heads of the EU’s 27 member states aim to strike a formal deal on the senior jobs next week after more negotiations between countries and political parties, officials briefed on the discussions said, as capitals jostle for influence over the bloc’s policy priorities for the next five years.

EU leaders used a private dinner in Brussels on Monday evening to review a proposal by political allies of von der Leyen for her to have a second five year term.

The leaders also discussed a related proposal for Portugal’s António Costa to be the next European Council president — who chairs meetings of EU leaders — and Estonia’s Kaja Kallas to be the bloc’s next chief diplomat.

“It was a good conversation, it goes in the right direction I think but there is no agreement tonight at this stage,” current European Council president Charles Michel, who chaired the dinner, told reporters.

People briefed on the discussions said there was no attempt to block the appointments of von der Leyen, Costa or Kallas, but EU leaders wanted to see more detailed plans for how they would act in their proposed roles ahead of a meeting on June 27.

“We need to agree on a team and we need to agree on a programme,” Michel said. “The political parties . . . they made proposals, and we will have the occasion in the days to come to work further and to prepare the decisions that we need to make”.

Leaders from across the EU and its political spectrum voiced support for von der Leyen having a second term as they arrived for the dinner.

EU capitals had stressed the need to choose continuity over change amid the war in Ukraine, tensions with China and political uncertainty in some of the bloc’s key member states. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described an extension for von der Leyen as a “sensible solution”.

“It is important for decisions to be made quickly . . . because we are living in difficult times,” he added.

Once approved by EU leaders, von der Leyen would then need to win a majority in the newly elected European parliament to remain as the EU’s most powerful official through to 2029.

The commission president is responsible for running the EU executive arm, with responsibility for regulating the world’s largest single market, proposing new legislation and steering the bloc’s policy direction.

Her supporters are quietly confident of securing parliament’s assent, given the victory of her centre-right European People’s party in the EU elections, and the majority held by centrist parties in the chamber despite a surge in support for the far right.

Mark Rutte, liberal prime minister of the Netherlands, said von der Leyen had done “an incredibly good job”, steering the EU through the Covid-19 pandemic and the bloc’s response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

But she has irked some EU capitals and many in her own commission with her centralised decision-making and a record of pushing the limits of her institutional powers. 

Her campaign stressed the value of stability, and played up the dangers of a change in leadership given the Ukraine war and the uncertainty in the US-EU relationship that would result from a potential Donald Trump victory in US presidential elections in November.

Her supporters have reinforced that message in the light of the political chaos unleashed in France by President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call snap parliamentary elections — a move that startled EU allies who worry about the future influence of the far right in Paris.

Officials said Portugal’s former premier Costa was the clear frontrunner for European Council president, while Kallas was the most likely choice for EU chief diplomat, taking over from Josep Borrell.

Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, seen as the most prominent alternative to Costa, told reporters as she arrived at the Monday dinner that she was “not a candidate”.

Additional reporting by Javier Espinoza and Daria Mosolova in Brussels



Source link