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Enda off to Brussels for election of new European Council President

The EU leaders will also discuss the Ukraine crisis at the special meeting.

Image: Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has travelled to Brussels for a special meeting of the European Council today.

Joining him is Dara Murphy, TD, Minister of State for European Affairs.

The main focus of the meeting between the EU leaders will be the election of the new President of the European Council and the appointing of the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is tipped to replace Herman Van Rompuy as President, while Federica Mogherini is a favourite to take over the foreign policy role.

A longer-shot is Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, probably best known for her selfie with Obama.

Ukraine

But the Heads of State and Government will also be meeting on external relations issues, including developments in Ukraine, the Middle East and the ebola virus in West Africa.

They are meeting for talks as accusations rain down on the Kremlin that Russian combat troops are fighting inside Ukraine, with fears growing that Europe may soon face a full-scale war on its eastern borders.

It has only been five weeks since EU states toughened their sanctions against Russia, but the EU is under pressure to once again up the stakes.

“Such behaviour cannot remain without consequences,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday amid the reports by NATO that “well over” a thousand Russian soldiers were waging war in Ukraine.

British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Russia to take a different path and if it did not, “then she should be in no doubt that there will be further consequences.”

Ukraine’s embattled government has openly asked the EU to help militarily, and the plea, which has virtually no chance of being satisfied, will be relayed to the summit by Romanian President Traian Basescu.

Last minute guest

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is a last-minute guest at today’s talks, invited to share the latest developments after one-on-one meetings with Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

Juncker calls for more women

The EU is effectively led by a trio and filling out the group is the already named Jean-Claude Juncker.

The former Luxemburg premier will replace Barroso and is in the process of filling posts for the next Commission with nominees provided by each member state.

Juncker’s main problem is the lack of women. Barroso’s outgoing Commission has nine women and so far governments have sent Juncker only four, including Mogherini.

Lawmakers in European parliament, who must ratify his choices, have warned they would oppose a college of European commissioners with fewer women than today.

- Additional reporting - © AFP, 2014

Read: Ukraine death toll nears 2,600 as West turns up the heat on Russia>

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