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16th Jul 2019

Franco-German deal will not decide EU top jobs, Sweden says

  • The Merkel-Sarkozy tandem will not have the last say in EU discussions, according to Sweden (Photo: European Communities, 2008)

Consultations on filling the EU's new posts are only "half-way" through, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Monday (9 November) in Berlin, while warning that a Franco-German deal is not sufficient to get the names pinned down.

"I am now phoning all the EU heads of state and government to hear who they want to fill these posts. I am half-way through my consultations," Mr Reinfeldt told journalists on the fringes of the Berlin Wall commemoration, according the Swedish presidency website.

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A special summit dedicated to the issue is unlikely to be organised as soon as this week, however.

The Times reported that Mr Reinfeldt warned against a Franco-German deal on who would become the new EU president and so-called foreign minister of the bloc. "It is not just about two telling us what to do and then thinking we have the answer," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made a habit of meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of EU summits to try to co-ordinate the positions of the two heavyweight countries. He recently lashed out against former Communist states meeting in a similar way, in the so-called Visegrad group, which prompted some diplomats to accuse him of "double standards."

The Swedish premier also expanded the spectrum of the job posts to be decided on, speaking not only about the EU president and top diplomat, but also about the secretary general of the Council of ministers. Currently, this post is merged with that of the high representative for foreign policy, Javier Solana. Once the Lisbon Treaty kicks in on 1 December, the two will be separated.

The Berlin dinner appears to have shed little more light onto the names. Consensus seems to be forming around Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy to become the first permanent president of the EU council. The post will mean chairing the meetings of EU leaders, is likely to have a staff of 15 people, similar to the EU commission president, and has a mandate of two and half years, renewable once.

For the EU foreign minister, things looked more complicated on Monday, with speculation running high, particularly in regard to British foreign secretary David Miliband.

In an apparently last-minute decision, Mr Miliband travelled to Berlin on Monday, intensifying rumours about him being interested in the post, despite the heads of the European Socialist family – Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and Martin Schulz - having indicated he was "definitely" not interested.

Domestic political calculations, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Labour party facing elections next year, may hinder Mr Miliband's European ambitions. But his longstanding denial of interest in the post may also be purely tactical, as early candidates are usually ditched along the way in EU negotiations.

As the job is likely to go to a member of the centre-left, due to an EU political agreement, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, has been negotiating behind the scenes to get a leftish candidate into the post.

Other names floated for the job, if Mr Miliband refuses it, are Italian former prime minister Massimo D'Alema - but his communist past may cause problems. A woman could also be put forward by Great Britain – Baroness Catherine Ashton, currently an EU commissioner for trade, or Greece's Anna Diamantopoulou, a former commissioner and current education minister.

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