Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Explainer-What are the EU’s top jobs and how will they be filled?

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders are set to start bargaining over top EU institution jobs after the European Parliament election concluded on Sunday with gains for the centre-right and far-right.

WHAT ARE THE TOP EU JOBS?

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Incumbent Ursula von der Leyen is aiming for a second term in charge of the EU’s executive body, which makes legislative proposals. This job is the most powerful in the EU institutions.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: This role involves chairing summits of the EU’s 27 national leaders and liaising with them to set the bloc’s strategic direction. Incumbent Charles Michel‘s term concludes at the end of November.

FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy chairs meetings of EU foreign, defence and development ministers. Incumbent Josep Borrell is also stepping down later this year.

HOW WILL POSTS BE DECIDED?

EU leaders will hold an informal meeting on June 17, just after the G7 summit in Italy, and then convene for an EU summit in Brussels on June 28-29.

At that point, they should have concluded their bargaining and settled on three candidates.

Candidates need qualified majority backing – meaning 15 of the 27 EU leaders, from countries that together represent 65% of the EU’s population.

The European Commission president also requires majority support in the European Parliament, as does the 27-person Commission as a whole.

The new parliament will convene for a first time on July 16. EU officials hope it will approve the Commission president that week. The next plenary session is in the week from Sept. 16.

HOW WILL TOP JOBS BE DECIDED?

EU leaders take account of the European Parliament election results and the need to strike a geographical balance. In agreeing the balance of the leadership package, they also take account of who will preside over the European Parliament.

According to convention, the Commission presidency goes to the party that came first in the Parliament election. That puts von der Leyen in a strong position as she was the candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party, which topped the poll.

The Council presidency is expected to go to the Socialists, who came second in the election, and the foreign policy post to the liberal Renew Europe camp, which came third.

The three groups have a majority in parliament, but reduced to just 400 of 720 seats.

This means von der Leyen may also need to reach out to the depleted Greens or Italy’s nationalist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to be sure of getting the green light from Parliament.

WHO IS IN LINE FOR A TOP JOB?

COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Von der Leyen is the clear frontrunner to secure a second term in charge of the EU executive.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was instrumental in placing her in the post in 2019, had touted other options this time, including former Italian Prime Minister and ECB head Mario Draghi, who Macron has said should ‘play a role’.

But sources says Macron is leaning towards endorsing von der Leyen. One of the sources said he did not want EU instability to add to the instability in France due to his decision to call a snap parliamentary election.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa is the leading candidate, according to diplomats.

The Socialist stepped down in November over an investigation into alleged illegalities in his government’s handling of green energy projects. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Portugal’s new prime minister Luis Montenegro, leading a rightist coalition, said he would back Costa if he ran.

There are few other obvious candidates. The Council president is typically a current or former prime minister, and the field of Socialist EU premiers is thin.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and former Italian premier Enrico Letta have been mentioned by diplomats in recent months, but Costa appears to have broad support.

FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas appears to be the frontrunner, according to diplomats.

Some had suggested she may be regarded as too hawkish on Russia for some EU governments. But those doubts appear to have dissipated in recent weeks.

As an eastern European, she would add geographical balance to the leadership slate.

Former Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Belgium’s Alexander De Croo, who is now caretaker prime minister after his party’s national election loss, have also been seen as possible candidates.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Andrew Gray; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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