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EU leaders call 'crisis' summit after failure to agree on candidates for Brussels top jobs

EU leaders failed to agree on a successor to Jean-Claude Juncker.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks at a press conference during an EU-Japan summit in April.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks at a press conference during an EU-Japan summit in April.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

EUROPEAN LEADERS HAVE failed to agree on a new top team to lead the EU for the next five years. The decision has now been postponed for at least a week. 

The 28 heads of government met for dinner after Brussels’ main political factions failed to agree on a single candidate for president of the European Commission.

The successor to Jean-Claude Juncker is one of the most important leadership roles in Brussels. The failure to agree on a new president means that European leaders were not able to agree to a broader package of appointments to other EU positions.

A crisis summit has now been called for 30 June.  

“The European Council has had a full discussion of nominations,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said. “There was no majority on any candidate.”

“The European Council agreed that there has to be a package reflecting the diversity of the EU,” he added.

The new summit comes just two days before the new European Parliament begins its first session. European leaders are hoping they can agree on key appointments before MEPs choose their own speaker.

French President Emmanuel Macron said parliament’s “lead candidate” or “spitzenkandidat” process for choosing a commission president is unworkable and that the 28 national leaders must decide.

“The names of the three ‘lead candidates’ have been ruled out,” Macron said. “They were tested out by Donald Tusk and he concluded that there is no majority to back these names.”

But Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the process and noted that whichever name the leaders come up with will still have to be approved by a majority of MEPs in the assembly.

“Here it has emerged… that there is no majority for one of the top candidates of the political parties,” she said. “We naturally want a joint solution with the parliament.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was at the summit in Brussels, where he also met with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to discuss the latest Brexit developments. Varadkar re-iterated the necessity of maintaining the backstop in the withdrawal agreement. 

Difficult process

None of the leading candidates from last month’s election have been able to achieve a consensus among the EU’s four main parliamentary parties. 

“I note with satisfaction, amusement and, yes, pleasure that it seems it is not easy to replace me,” Juncker joked.   

Other jobs up for grabs include speaker of the European Parliament, which will sit for the first time on 2 July, as well as a new president of the European Council

European leaders are trying to divide the most senior jobs in a way that balances men and women, east and west Europe, small countries and large.

Last month’s European election results forced the main conservative, socialist, liberal and Green parliamentary blocs to form a majority coalition. However, this has added to difficulties in choosing candidates.

Whoever is eventually the nominee for the commission presidency must win the backing of least 21 of the 28 EU leaders and a majority in the 751-member parliament.

Six EU leaders are invited to the G20 summit in Osaka on Friday and Saturday next week. The leaders – from France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – will continue the discussion there before returning to Brussels to try and reach an agreement.

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