Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Agenda

Deja vu as EU top jobs dominate again This WEEK

  • Jean-Claude Juncker will leave in October - his successor needs to be found before July (Photo: European Union)

The top EU jobs will once again dominate much of the discussions in Brussels, as EU heads of state and government return for another summit this week.

The Spitzenkandat, a German term used to describe a process where the biggest European political parties select their candidates to take the European commission helm, appears all but dead.

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The point was driven by French president Emmanuel Macron who told reporters in Brussels that the procedure pushed by the European Parliament since 2014 has failed to deliver.

"This system was not maintained as valid," he said, noting that new names must now be found by 30 June (Sunday) when the leaders convene in the Belgian capital for the summit.

The French rejection of the system played out against Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel - who still supports an increasingly maligned Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People's Party leader who wants the commission presidency.

Merkel downplayed any schism with her French counterpart, noting that neither would decide anything against the other.

"Such is the German-Franco cooperation," she said.

Other contenders, like the Dutch socialist commissioner Frans Timmermans and Denmark's liberal commissioner Margrethe Vestager also failed to muster support at the summit.

But Iratxe Garcia, the new leader of the socialist S&D group, is holding out hope.

"There is room to find a compromise for European Commission president among one of the leading candidates," she said, in an emailed statement.

Under treaty rules, the Council nominates a candidate who must also get the majority support of the European Parliament. The parliament will then vote on the Commission candidate during its second July plenary session.

The wider plan is to get a complete package deal for those wanting to head the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, and the EU's foreign policy branch (EEAS) - all taking into account political affiliation, gender balance, and member state geography.

Whatever the process, the pressure is on to finalise a decision at the Sunday summit given the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg starts only two days later on 2 July.

This new, additional, summit is set to kick off at 18:00 over dinner.

To complicate matters, a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, will be attended by France, Germany, Italy, and the UK - along with the outgoing EU council president Donald Tusk and outgoing EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

As those leaders meet in Japan, the jockeying for power and coalition-building among the parliamentary political groups will be in full swing in Brussels.

"For us, it is really important to discuss the content," Ska Keller, the German co-president of the Greens group, told this website when pressed about the possible future leadership of the European Parliament.

The evasive response points to the sensitivity over the issue and one that is likely to figure into a broader debate Thursday morning when the so-called conference of presidents meet, the governing body of the European Parliament, composed of political group chairs and the president.

The jockeying kicks off on Monday with EU Council president Donald Tusk holding bilateral meetings with a handful of political group leaders.

Among them is the embattled EPP leader Weber, whose chances of becoming the next European Commission president is fading.

Tusk said he will also meet with liberal Renew Europe's Dacian Ciolos and Guy Verhofstadt, as well as the Green's Philippe Lamberts and the socialist (S&D) Garcia.

It's not all party politics and power plays this week.

Luxembourg

On Wednesday, relevant EU state ministers working on the environment will meet in Luxembourg to discuss water.

But the meeting will be overshadowed by failed efforts among European leadership to set a 2050 target for a carbon neutral society.

State ministers will also meet on Monday to discuss the future cohesion policy and its links to the so-called European Semester, which provides an annual big picture perspective on economic policies.

Four states block EU 2050 carbon neutral target

Poland, with the support from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Estonia, blocked a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050. It is now just a footnote in the summit conclusions.

Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK

A summit in Belgian capital this week will host heads of government and state to discuss top EU institutional posts. But before they meet, the jockeying for the Commission presidency will have already started among the European political groups.

EU struggles to remain united This WEEK

EU countries continue to wrestle with economic shock of pandemic and with sharing of medical resources, posing deep questions on solidarity in the bloc.

EU goes fully online in lockdown This WEEK

EU leaders will discuss the coronavirus reponse online, while MEPs will vote on urgent measures by email. Starting accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia will also be high on the agenda.

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