Sunday

19th Feb 2017

Italy's Mogherini still an option for EU foreign policy job

  • Federica Mogherini may be the next EU foreign policy chief (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini may become the next EU foreign policy chief if Polish PM Donald Tusk or a Baltic leader succeeds Herman Van Rompuy as EU Council president.

The decision will be taken by EU leaders when they meet in Brussels on Saturday (30 August).

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"Mogherini is still an option," an EU source told this website, despite a failed attempt in July by EU leaders to agree on her name.

Back then, eastern member states voiced concern that she is too Russia-friendly and TOO inexperienced for the job, as she was only appointed foreign minister in February.

But with gender and political colour playing a big role in the division of top posts, Mogherini's chances have picked up again.

Given that the new EU commission chief is a centre-right politician - Jean Claude-Juncker - one of the other two posts should go to a Social Democrat and a woman.

After the inconclusive July summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the foreign affairs post should go to a Social-Democrat, a condition Mogherini fulfils.

The other two candidates in the run - Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski and Bulgarian EU commissioner Kristalina Georgieva - are from the centre-right.

The candidate will have to get the blessing of the next EU commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, who in an interview with Kurier on Monday said leaders should find a "reasonable solution" that will also satisfy the European Parliament.

Some MEPs have signalled tough hearings for Mogherini should she be appointed - the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, Elmar Brok, said the post had to be filled by "someone with experience".

A compromise may be found on Saturday if the other top post to be decided upon - the successor to EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy - is filled by a eastern European, EU sources say, however.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron, while still on his holidays, called Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and expressed his support for the Polish politician to become Council president.

Tusk so far has declined he is interested in the job, but as an acting prime minister he could hardly otherwise until his nomination is secured.

"The prime minister has said many times that for him, the priority is Polish affairs. Obviously, the comments by Mr Cameron are very flattering for us," Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, a Polish government spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Another option, if Tusk sticks to his guns and declines the offer, may be Latvia's former Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who challenged Jean-Claude Juncker for the EU commission top job.

Ireland's Enda Kenny and Denmark's Helle Thorning Schmidt, also names that have been floated for the Council job, have fewer chances, unless Georgieva or Sikorski are picked for the foreign affairs post.

Top commissioners

Apart from picking the two EU top jobs, leaders on Saturday are also likely to hold informal talks with Juncker and try and secure as good a commissioner post as possible for their candidates.

In an interview with EUobserver earlier this month, Juncker's chief of staff indicated that the final composition of the commission will only be finalised in the weeks after the Saturday summit, once it is clear who will be foreign affairs chief.

Economics, energy and digital agenda are among the most desired posts, with Juncker telling Kurier that female candidates will get better posts as "compensation" for being outnumbered by their male colleagues.

A list of all commissioner candidates and their desired posts can be found here.

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A deal is shaping up for Italian foreign minister Mogherini to become the EU's next foreign affairs chief, provided the PM of Poland or a Baltic leader takes up the EU Council presidency.

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