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23rd Sep 2017

Focus

Centre-right: Socialists cannot get three top posts

  • Merkel offered Cameron a small sweetener (Photo: epp.eu)

Centre-right leaders and MEPs said on Thursday (26 June) the Socialists cannot get three EU top posts, while indicating a preference for the EU Council job.

Outgoing Dutch MEP Corien Wortmann-Kool, who took part in the EPP meeting in Kortrijk, south-west Belgium, told EUobserver afterward: “Reflecting the outcome of the EU elections means it would be clearly too much for Socialists to claim both the high representative [for foreign affairs] and the EU Council presidency, as well as the European Parliament top post.”

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She said the centre-right EPP bloc could live with the foreign affairs post staying in the Socialist family, but that the EU Council presidency should rather go to someone from the centre-right.

With EPP member Jean-Claude Juncker set to take over the EU Commission presidency after a vote among EU leaders on Friday, the Socialist European Parliament chief, Martin Schulz, has arranged to stay on for another 2.5 years.

Meanwhile, Italy's Socialist prime minister Matteo Renzi is pushing for his foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, to succeed Catherine Ashton as foreign affairs czar.

Denmark's Socialist prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is also considered as a possible successor to EU Council chairman Herman Van Rompuy or Ashton.

The EU Council and foreign relations posts are likely to be decided at a dinner in Brussels on 16 July.

Thorning-Schmidt has said she wants to stay on as prime minister at home.

But her counterpart from Finland, Alexander Stubb, an EPP member, said in Kortrijk that he would vote for her "for any top job".

"She was an MEP and a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges, she would be good for any job”.

Small sweetener

With British PM David Cameron still opposed to Juncker’s appointment, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Finnish and Swedish leaders offered him a small sweetener in the form of UK-friendly tweaks to the EU’s official priorities for the next few years.

"I think we can find good compromises with the UK, we can take a step towards them," Merkel said.

Wortmann-Kool noted that the discussion remained vague and that there was "no real willingness to change all our agenda" just because Cameron is losing a vote on Juncker.

The draft priorities already contain points which coincide with British demands: cutting red tape; a commitment to sign more free trade agreements; and limiting EU action to major issues, instead of small initiatives which could be handled at national level.

Cameron told the BBC before a WWI commemoration ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, the same day that leaders are ceding too much power to the EU level.

"My message to my fellow heads of government and heads of state, is that this approach that they are contemplating taking, is the wrong approach for Europe. They are giving up the right of heads of state and heads of government to choose the head of the European Commission. That is a mistake," he said.

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