Thursday, June 13, 2024

António Costa’s downfall spells trouble for socialist hopes of EU top job

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Frans Timmermans, the former European Commission socialist heavyweight, has only just left Brussels to return to the Netherlands. If he wins this month’s election, he’ll be Dutch prime minister and unlikely to want to leave, and if he fails, he’ll have never been a prime minister, which is an informal criterion for the Council top job.

One name that has circulated in the corridors of Brussels for a long time is that of the former president of the European Central Bank, and ex-Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi.

The man seen as having saved the euro has now been tasked by von der Leyen with preparing a report on how the EU can deal with its eroding global competitiveness, which could strengthen his profile even more.

Yet he’s considered a long shot for many reasons. 

Since the role of full-time president of the European Council was introduced in 2009, the job has always been given to a party-affiliated politician (first Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy, then Poland’s Donald Tusk and now Michel) — and Draghi was a technocrat and then an independent prime minister. It would prove difficult for the socialists to appoint someone who doesn’t belong to their party. On top of that, it remains unclear whether the center-right government of Giorgia Meloni would support Draghi.  

For other former socialist prime ministers, such as Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni and Sweden’s Stefan Löfven, a lot of time has passed since they left the European Council table — and they could face similar problems securing the backing of their center-right governments. 

Eddy Wax and Jakob Hanke Vela contributed reporting.

This story has been updated.

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