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'Let's get serious': EU leaders to meet again amid deadlock in election of new Commission chief

Talks ended without an agreement in Brussels yesterday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes questions during a media conference at the EU summit in Brussels yesterday
German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes questions during a media conference at the EU summit in Brussels yesterday
Image: Virginia Mayo/PA Images

EUROPEAN UNION LEADERS will meet in Brussels again today as they attempt to fill the role of European Commission president for a third consecutive day.

The 28 leaders, who will meet from 10am Irish time, remain divided over a Franco-German compromise on who will become the new head of the bloc’s executive arm.

But they remained optimistic as new names were floated as possibilities to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying: “Let’s get serious.”

“I think that in a few hours we will be able to reach an agreement,” Macron added, after an 18-hour summit session ended in acrimony yesterday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she still “hoped that with good will a compromise will be feasible” when the leaders meet again today.

The compromise Merkel and Macron forged on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on Saturday called for Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans to head the commission, rather than his conservative rival German Manfred Weber.

Instead, Weber would be put forward for election as speaker of the European Parliament, where he leads the largest political bloc.

But when Merkel suggested this to her fellow centre-right leaders in the European People’s Party (EPP), the summit was thrown into crisis as heads of government shuttled between side meetings on Sunday evening and Monday.

For a nominee to go forward, he or she must secure the backing of 21 of the 28 EU leaders, representing 65 percent of the bloc’s population.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed pessimism after last night’s summit, saying that the EPP had not agreed to the package that was negotiated in Osaka.

“From the EPP point of view, the vast majority of EPP prime ministers don’t believe that we should give up the presidency of the Commission quite so easily without a fight,” he said last night. 

The EPP remains the biggest bloc in the European Parliament, and includes Fine Gael, but it is no longer the dominant force it was before the May’s elections.

The liberals, which include Macron supporters, are increasingly assertive over the choice of top jobs after they and the Greens made huge gains in those polls.

A previous EU summit on 20-21 June had already failed to break the stalemate over candidates.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019.

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