Wednesday, June 12, 2024

How the EU top job horse-trading will game out this week

Must read

With votes cast in the European elections, EU leaders are expected to start already on Monday (10 June) with informal deliberations on how to distribute the four European top jobs. Here’s a run-down of what to expect over the next week.

Before he steps down from his post later this year, European Council President Charles Michel needs to steer talks between EU leaders on the next leadership team: the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament, as well as the EU’s chief diplomat post.

“I am not the only one who thinks that it will not be easy,” Michel told reporters last week when asked about the EU top job negotiations ahead.

Over the past week, he already started holding the first informal consultations with EU leaders to take the temperature across the capitals.

With the new political landscape after Sunday’s elections and the changed power balance in Europe after Russia’s war in Ukraine, the challenge will be to find a party-political, geographical, and gender balance in the top job nominees.

The EU’s top jobs must be distributed among the three parties that gained the most votes in the European elections, which are the centre-right EPP, the Socialists, and the Liberals. However, the rise of the far-right might complicate things.

It would be EU leaders’ “duty to have a decision by the end of June”, Michel stressed, so the European Parliament would be able to confirm the choice when it convenes in July.

A week of summitry

Before EU leaders convene over dinner on 17 June for an informal EU summit in Brussels, they will have plenty of opportunities to informally map out the mood among their counterparts.

A first stop will be the B9 Summit in Latvia on Tuesday (11 June), where leaders of Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia will primarily meet for Eastern flank security talks, but are widely expected to informally touch upon EU top job talks.

The big show of the week will come at the G7 summit in Italy later this week, where Michel will have the first opportunity to take the temperature of the EU’s big three – France, Germany, and Italy.

Some EU leaders have already thrown their support behind incumbent European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, others keep her guessing.

French President Emmanuel Macron, von der Leyen’s kingmaker in 2019, is said to be testing the waters for Italian technocrat Mario Draghi in the job.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democrats have been warning they could torpedo a second von der Leyen term if she continues to flirt with the far-right and Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni herself, meanwhile, has not disclosed her cards.

“Having all three of them in one room this early in the process could help shape the discussions after and discuss some of the red lines between Paris, Berlin, and Rome,” one person familiar with the plans said.

To some extent, later that weekend, a group of EU leaders will likely also hold background talks on the sidelines of the Ukraine Peace Conference in Switzerland.

Top job dinner

The informal dinner on 17 June will be the first official opportunity for the EU27 leaders to discuss both the European election result and what consequences to draw for the next leadership.

It will also be setting the scene for the official EU summit on 27-28 June, which according to the anticipated timeline should produce a decision on the matter.

The name of the European Commission president-designate is expected to be sent to the European Parliament by 11 July, so it can be approved at its first plenary session on 16-18 July.

Next Monday’s talks are meant to be an informal, political discussion, led and structured by Michel, people familiar with the planning said.

Before heading into the dinner, EU leaders will have internal meetings in their political party configurations to talk about their top job strategy.

“If you want to kill a candidate you announce them in advance – if you name ’em, you burn ’em,” one veteran of the appointment process told Euractiv.

“In that sense, don’t expect names to be endorsed at the informal dinner or in the days after, but only much, much closer to the actual EU top job summit later this month,” they added.

[Edited by Aurélie Pugnet/Zoran Radosavljevic]

Read more with Euractiv

Subscribe now to our newsletter EU Elections Decoded

Latest article