Post-election wrangling kicks off this WEEK
EU leaders will meet in Brussels Tuesday (27 May) to discuss the outcome of the EU and Ukrainian elections, kicking off the nomination process of the next European Commission chief.
The day starts at 11.30 with a meeting of the political group leaders in the European Parliament. Outgoing Parliament chief Martin Schulz, himself a top candidate for the commission post, will meet EU council president Herman Van Rompuy early afternoon to inform him of the Parliament's position.
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Meanwhile, European political parties - the centre right EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals - will hold their own election-digesting gatherings ahead of the leaders' summit starting at 19.00 Brussels time.
France's Francois Hollande will be at the Socialist meeting along with Schulz, while Germany's Angela Merkel will go to the EPP and its top candidate Jean-Claude Juncker and the Belgian ex-PM Guy Verhofstadt, the third top candidate, to the Liberal gathering.
Van Rompuy in his invitation to the EU leaders has made it clear that no names will be discussed on Tuesday night, rather a general discussion about the elections result, about Ukraine and about policy priorities for the next years in Europe.
Britain has made it clear it doesn't want any of the top candidates, all considered too federalist by London. France has indicated it is backing Schulz, while Germany is playing its cards close to it chest.
The likely outcome is for leaders to give a negotiating mandate to Van Rompuy, who in the coming weeks will have to consult MEPs and national leaders and find a name that will muster a majority both in the European Parliament and in the Council.
EU leaders may give Van Rompuy a 'broader' mandate to negotiate a package deal that would include his own successor, the next foreign affairs chief and possibly a permanent Eurogroup chief - a post eyed by the French and the Spaniards.
From a procedural point of view, the commission candidate needs a so-called qualified majority among EU countries - a voting systems which gives larger states a bigger say. Britain could be in theory outvoted, but it is unlikely for Germany's Angela Merkel and Van Rompuy to go down that road. "Leaders always try to seek consensus," an EU diplomat notes.
The nomination then goes to Parliament, where it has to gather an absolute majority of MEPs. The top candidates are likely to explore on their own what support they can muster in both camps, with phonecalls and meetings starting on Monday.
The week ends early, as Thursday is a holiday in many member states.