EU leaders gather to decide who gets top jobs

Rivals for EU Commission presidency, in Brussels debate, 15 May 19Image copyright

Image caption

“Spitzenkandidaten”, L-R: Margrethe Vestager (liberal, Danish); Frans Timmermans (centre-left, Dutch); Manfred Weber (centre-right, German)

EU leaders will gather in Brussels shortly for talks to decide who should get the EU’s top jobs, including a new Commission president.

Reports say the current favourite to head it is Dutch centre-left politician Frans Timmermans. He is a Commission first vice-president.

However, politicians in Poland, Hungary and Romania dislike the way he has enforced the EU rule of law policy.

The centre-right bloc wants Germany’s Manfred Weber to get the top job.

He is the European People’s Party (EPP) candidate under the “Spitzenkandidat” (lead candidate) procedure, which the European Parliament supports as a democratic way to reflect the European election outcome.

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Media captionWho’s in the running for Juncker’s post and other EU top jobs?

But while the EPP is still the biggest bloc, it does not have a majority, and French President Emmanuel Macron is among those opposing the “Spitzenkandidat” system. The May EU elections produced a more fragmented parliament.

The EU treaties say the government leaders – the European Council – have to nominate a Commission president, but they do not have to choose a “Spitzenkandidat”.

The Commission drafts EU laws, oversees national budgets, enforces EU treaties and negotiates international trade deals.

Brussels diplomats and a European Parliament adviser told Reuters news agency that Mr Timmermans was most likely to become president, succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker.

German media quoted Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying the choice was between “the two Spitzenkandidaten”, implying Mr Timmermans and Mr Weber.

The rare Sunday summit was called because EU leaders failed on 20 June to agree on candidates for the Commission president’s job and other top posts: European Council president (to replace Donald Tusk); high representative for foreign policy (to replace Federica Mogherini); European Parliament president and European Central Bank president.

Reuters says the emerging compromise is to give Mr Weber the post of parliament president, and make Mr Timmermans – who has strong French and Spanish support – Commission president.

The pressure is on to decide the appointments, because the new parliament meets on 2 July, and at their 15-18 July session, MEPs are to vote on the leaders’ nominee for Commission president.

The May elections saw big gains for the liberals – including Mr Macron’s alliance – and Greens, at the expense of the long-established centre-right and centre-left blocs. Nationalists also made gains.

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