Neelie Kroes, the Dutch EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has publicly endorsed the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to become the next President of the European Council, ahead of a key EU summit on Wednesday (16 July).
Kroes took to Twitter on Monday (14 July) to show her support for the Danish social democratic prime minister.
“I am going on record saying that Helle Thorning-Schmidt would make a great successor to Herman Van Rompuy as President of European Council,” Kroes wrote.
— Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU) July 14, 2014
Kroes’s declaration came ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday (16 July) set to discuss replacements for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s Foreign policy chief, and Herman Van Rompuy, the current President of the European Council, for the next five-year mandate. The European Council President chairs meetings of EU heads of state, which take place at least four times a year, and acts as a consensus-builder among the 28.
Kroes’ spokesperson Ryan Heath told the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that “Helle Thorning-Schmidt is a competent politician who would do well as a Council President, and it is good to see more women getting the top jobs. She is a modern social democrat, and Kroes agrees with her politics in many ways.”
Thorning-Schmidt’s name has been whispered in the corridors of Brussels in recent months, but Kroes’ backing is the first public support she has received so far, aside from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who joked recently that he wouldn’t officially back her because then she wouldn’t get the job.
Thorning-Schmidt is also believed to be backed by Germany, Italy and France, although Paris has hesitations since Denmark is not part of the eurozone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Thorning-Schmidt, and suggested the EU Council job could go to an outsider.
However, French media now report that President François Hollande would be willing to accept the Danish prime minister if France gets a prominent economic portfolio in the next EU Commission.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament is expected to formally approve Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President before heads of state and government meet in Brussels on Wednesday (16 July).
However, if the EU leaders fail to agree on a candidate, there’s a risk that Van Rompuy’s successor won’t be named until the autumn. Van Rompuy’s mandate expires in December 2014.
Should Thorning-Schmidt step down as prime minister, her successor is likely to be the current Employment Minister, Mette Frederiksen.
The President of the Commission is elected by the Parliament by a majority of its members, on a proposal of the European Council acting by qualified majority. The choice of the candidate for the Presidency of the Commission should take account of the results of the elections in the European Parliament.
In consultation with the President-elect, the Council then adopts the list of the other Members of the Commission. These people are chosen on the basis of suggestions made by the Governments. The Commission is subject, as a body, to a vote of approval of the European Parliament. The College of Commissioners is then formally appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority.
- 15 July: Parliament formally approves Juncker as next Commission President.
- 16 July: EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss candidates to succeed Herman Van Rompuy as Council President and Catherine Ashton as EU foreign policy chief.
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