EU leaders face evening of haggling over Europe's top jobs
By LORNE COOK Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders are set for a night of haggling Tuesday over who should lead the 28-nation bloc’s key institutions for the next five years after weekend elections shook up Europe’s political landscape.
Presidents and prime ministers will meet informally over an evening meal to choose who should take over as head of the EU’s powerful executive branch, the European Commission, currently led by Jean-Claude Juncker.
Sunday’s elections have redrawn the EU’s political map. Mainstream center-right and center-left groups that long held power lost seats in the European Parliament. Many voters, concerned about climate change, migration or security turned instead to the Greens, the pro-business ALDE group or far-right parties.
It’s unclear what workable majority will emerge in the house.
At dinner talks, the leaders are also likely to weigh candidates for European Council president to replace Donald Tusk, EU high representative — essentially the foreign minister — and the head of the European Central Bank.
The leaders want to move quickly. They hope to be able to name candidates to the top posts at their next summit on June 20-21.
“We want to find a solution as quickly as possible, because the European Parliament will meet at the beginning of July and it would of course be desirable if there were already a proposal at that point” from the leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin.
“The quicker we make the decision, the better that is for the future.”
Merkel’s center-right conservative Union and coalition partners the Socialists suffered in Sunday’s vote, notably at the hands of the Greens.
But early signs indicate that the process will take some time, and that a power struggle between the EU Council, representing the nations, and the parliament is imminent.
No clear candidate for Juncker’s post emerged from a meeting Tuesday morning among party group leaders at the parliament.
Instead, they insisted only that the person be chosen from among the candidates put forward by the parliamentary blocs. This puts them at odds with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is insisting that EU leaders should decide on who will head the commission.
Favorites for the top jobs are likely to be traded off to maximize influence over the world’s biggest trading bloc. Nationality and gender are certain to influence the final choice.
The commission is the massive European bureaucracy that proposes drafts laws for the 28 member nations and makes sure they’re enforced. Those drafts are thrashed out between the parliament and council.