Sweden plans October summit on top EU jobs

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Provided that the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by then, the 29-30 October European summit in Brussels will discuss nominations to all EU top jobs, including a high-profile permanent EU president and foreign policy czar, the Swedish EU Presidency said yesterday (1 September).

Addressing the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee on Tuesday, Swedish EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström said that if the Lisbon Treaty were adopted, the October summit could deal with nominations to the posts of Council president, the EU high representative for foreign policy and members of the new Commission.

Her comments also came as confirmation that the current Commission is likely to continue in a caretaker capacity for a limited time. 

Malmström added that the October summit would also deal with the issue of the 18 MEPs whose status depends on the treaty’s ratification, and on arrangements for the European External Action Service that will assist the EU’s foreign policy czar. 

The summit takes place after the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October. However, it remains unclear whether the ratification process will have advanced by then in Germany, Poland and especially the Czech Republic, where a group of senators close to the country’s Eurosecptic President Václav Klaus called on the Constitutional Court to postpone ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty until national laws are amended (EURACTIV 24/08/09). 

During the meeting, MEPs asked several questions about appointments to the new positions. Malmström declined to speculate on names, but gave assurances that the Parliament would be kept informed. MEPs also voiced concerns about the lack of public interest in EU institutional matters and urged the presidency to push forward on issues of most interest to citizens. 

‘Public secret’ revealed 

At his hearing before the Parliament’s development committee, Karel de Gucht, Belgium’s commissioner-designate for development, said he was taking the job for four months, confirming a public secret: namely that the European executive would stay on beyond its mandate until the end of the year. 

Besides De Gucht, Lithuania’s Algirdas Semeta and Pawel Samicki of Poland also emerged successfully from parliamentary scrutiny yesterday, replacing compatriots who recently took other high-level jobs. 

However, if the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified by the end of 2009, the Commission would have to be elected under the Nice Treaty. Putting pressure on Ireland, the Czech Republic and Poland, Germany recently warned that if Lisbon were not in force, then Berlin would ask for a 12-member Commission, or “maximum 18,” thus implying that “problem countries” would not be represented in the college (EURACTIV 15/06/09). 

The Treaty of Lisbon introduces two new European top jobs: a high-profile president who will chair EU summit meetings for a two-and-a-half year term and a revamped foreign policy chief. However, selecting the right people to fill these positions will prove a politically sensitive task. 

In the absence of formal criteria, speculation is rife over who should take up the role of EU president. According to Stanley Crossick, a veteran EU policy analyst and founding chairman of the European Policy Centre (EPC; a Brussels think-tank), the new EU troika needs to strike a balance between the following criteria: 

  • Nationality; 
  • geography; 
  • size of country, and; 
  • political affiliation. 

One of the last decisions of the last European Parliament was to adopt, on 6 May, a decision to bridge the difference in the number of MEPs between the provisions of the current Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, should it come into effect. 

The Nice Treaty provides for 736 MEPs, while the Lisbon Treaty foresees 754 MEPs until 2014 and 751 thereafter. A report by Socialist MEP Richard Corbett (UK, Labour), adopted in plenary, provides for granting the outstanding 18 MEPs observer status until the Lisbon Treaty becomes effective. 

However, even under the most optimistic scenario, this would not be the end of the procedure, as the amended Lisbon Treaty would become effective only after additional texts are ratified by all member countries. 

Spain is particularly anxious to see the additional MEPs take their seats, because it will be allocated four of the 18 extra seats. 

France, Sweden, Austria, Britain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Malta would also receive more MEPs under the Lisbon Treaty. 

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