28th Oct 2016

EU leaders fail to agree on top jobs

EU leaders on Wednesday night (16 July) failed to reach an agreement on two top jobs - the high representative for foreign policy and the next EU Council president.

"It is a bit unfortunate but not dramatic, not dramatic at all," outgoing Council chief Herman Van Rompuy told press after chairing the meeting.

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He said that "extensive" phone consultations over the past days with the heads of government did not result in a "consensual solution on a full package of appointments."

Van Rompuy will chair another meeting on 30 August, a Saturday, to agree on the two names.

He claimed that Wednesday’s meeting was not a failure and because the complex agreements, which need to take into account geographical, gender, and small-big state balance, "take time."

He compared it with the recent EU budget deal, which also took two summits to agree.

Some member states - notably Italy and France who backed Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini for the foreign affairs job - were willing to get a deal on that post only, while others wanted both posts to be filled at the same time.

An even larger contingent also wanted clarity on what kind of commissioner post they could expect in the next EU executive.

This puts the ball in the court of Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be the next commission president, and who has called on member states to send in multiple names each, as well as to have at least 10 female commissioners.

The calendar initially envisaged by the European Parliament, which has to hold hearings and vote on the entire commission in September, can still be kept to, "but it will be very tight," one EU diplomat said.

Sikorski and Georgieva out

Meanwhile, the chances of two foreign affairs chief aspirants - Polish FM Radek Sikorski and Bulgaria's EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva, both affiliated with the centre-right - have faded given an understanding that the job should go to the Socialist family.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that given the result of the EU elections and the division of posts so far, it was "logical” for the Socialist family to get the foreign affairs post.

Italian PM Matteo Renzi, whose aggressive campaign to get Mogherini into the job backfired when eastern states rallied against her pro-Russian prpfile and lack of experience, quipped that "if it's going to be an experienced man, I don't think it will be Mogherini."

Diplomats doubt that Mogherini will still have a chance in August if there was no agreement on her now.

But French President Francois Hollande defended her, saying that the foreign affairs post is merely a "type of spokeswoman" for the EU and that her personal views on Russia are irrelevant.

“It’s true some of the more recently arrived member states had reservations [about Mogherini] but this person [the foreign relations] doesn’t carry out the foreign policy of her own country,” he said.

EU myth-busters set for budget upgrade

One year after its launch, East Stratcom, the EU’s “tiny” counter-propaganda cell, has created a 20,000-strong following and could get a €1 million budget.

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