Thursday

8th Dec 2016

Opposition to Mogherini fading in EU capital

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

Several EU sources told EUobserver on Thursday (28 August) that Mogherini is increasingly certain to get the job, with EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy working the phones to EU leaders ahead of a summit on Saturday aimed at filling the two top posts.

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"If we get a Mogherini-Tusk deal ahead of the summit, leaders may spend less time on the top posts and more on Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza," one source told this website.

Another source said Mogherini is more of a certainty than Tusk, who is so far playing his cards close to his chest.

British PM David Cameron earlier this week endorsed Tusk for the EU Council job, while German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly tried as far back as July to convince the Polish politician to take up the post.

Back then, Tusk said he wants to stay in national politics, with some diplomats pointing to his poor English skills as a handicap for the Brussels-based job.

But even if Tusk refuses, the EU Council job is almost certain to go to an eastern European state - with former Latvian PM Valdis Dombrovskis or Estonia's former prime minister Andrus Ansip floated as alternatives.

Tusk or another eastern European leader as Council president might provide the necessary "counterbalance" for Mogherini critics to accept her appointment.

At a summit in July, eastern member states rebelled against her, citing her pro-Russia stance and lack of experience - as she was only appointed foreign minister in February.

Key MEPs who are needed to secure a vote in the European Parliament later this autumn also said there was need for someone "with experience" to head the EU diplomatic service at a time when Russia wages wars at the borders of Europe.

But on Thursday, Elmar Brok, chairman of the influential foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament, seemed resigned with the idea that the foreign affairs post will go to "a Socialist" instead of his preferred candidate, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski.

Asked if he thought Mogherini was fit for the job, Brok said it was "up to the Socialists to come up with a candidate" who meets the European Parliament's demands for a more assertive EU foreign policy. B

ut he did not outright reject Mogherini as being inexperienced, as he had done before.

As for Tusk, Brok joked that "any Polish candidate is always a good candidate”, adding that he is a "man from a country which has a lot of political experience." Alluding to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Brok added that it would be a "good political message" to put someone from the new member states in one of the top posts.

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