EU leaders meet on Thursday (20 June) to decide the top EU jobs for the next five years. They have a good incentive to make a decision. If they fail, they will have to hold another summit in the next ten days, before the first European Parliament session on 2 July.
So they should better make up their minds fast.
They basically only need to agree on three names: the presidents of the European Commission and Council, plus the EU foreign affairs chief.
The other two top jobs (the presidents of the ECB and the European Parliament) are not exactly in the remit of the member states, so they will not be discussed, at least not publicly.
If all goes according to plan, the summit will end up with the selection of the new Commission president, although the preference is to have a whole package, with a reasonable balance between political affiliation, gender, and geography.
EU leaders have a lot of freedom. The newly elected heads of the mainstream political groups in the Parliament have already made clear that they don’t oppose if the selection of the new EU chiefs goes “beyond the Spitzenkandidat system”.
This means Spitzenkandidaten like Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans will also be considered, but not exclusively.
Council President Donald Tusk has been consulting EU heads of states and government for the last three weeks and has certainly prepared a draft proposal with three names by the time we write these lines.
He also probably has a second proposal and some additional combinations. “I hope we can make it on Thursday,” he tweeted on Wednesday. So do we.
We’ve already provided a version of what the EU conclave may achieve.
In the meantime, we have gotten a taste of what Tusk’s consultations may have looked like. From Paris, we hear that the political colour of the new Commission president matters less than gender or geographic characteristics. Nor would it be a showstopper if the candidate is from a non-eurozone member country (hint: enter Vestager).
Another telling piece of insight is that the Visegrad countries are reluctant to give the job of Council president to Lithuania’s outgoing leader, Dalia Grybauskaite, possibly because she was a member of the Communist Party of the USSR and of Lithuania, long ago.
So the paradox is that even if a candidate appears to tick many boxes (in this case a woman, from Eastern Europe, politically independent, knowing the functioning of the Council inside out), the same candidate can have surprising detractors from his/her own “family”.
The Visegrad Four favour another woman from Eastern Europe, Kristalina Georgieva. The former EU budget Commissioner, now in the World Bank, is not, however, the candidate of her country of origin, Bulgaria, at least not yet.
But remember, Tusk himself wasn’t the candidate of his own country, Poland, for his re-election in 2017, and that’s putting it mildly.
In the meantime, follow our summit liveblog for the latest updates.
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EU leaders gather for the June summit in Brussels tomorrow. Budget talks, climate change and foreign policy will also figure on the agenda.
Views are the author’s
* Frédéric Simon contributed to this Brief.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Sam Morgan]