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22nd Jan 2022

EU to name first permanent president on 19 November

  • The summit venue in Brussels, which will witness the historic appointment next week (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The Swedish presidency has called an EU summit on 19 November to decide on the bloc's new top appointments, with a Polish proposal to hold candidate hearings gaining limited acceptance.

The summit will be in the format of an EU leaders' dinner in Brussels and comes after two weeks of consultations between Stockholm and the other EU capitals.

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"It is hoped that at the summit, agreement can be reached on the appointment of the three new top EU posts regulated in the Treaty of Lisbon," the presidency said in a statement on Wednesday morning (11 November).

The move will be a significant moment in the history of the EU, which started out as a free trade bloc 50 years ago but which is little by little acquiring the trappings of a genuine political union.

The three positions in question are the new president of the European Council and EU foreign relations chief, as well as the largely bureaucratic appointment of a new secretary general of the Council, the Brussels-based institution which prepares member states' day-to-day meetings.

Gossip still favours Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy for the presidency post but British foreign minister David Miliband's denials of interest in the second post have thrown the race open on the foreign relations side.

Meanwhile, a Polish suggestion that candidates should give job interview-type presentations at the dinner before the final choice is made is gaining in popularity.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski and his Lithuanian counterpart, Vygaudas Usackas, have spent the past 24 hours promoting the idea in EU capitals, including at a high-level dinner in Madrid on Tuesday with delegates from Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Finland and Hungary.

Finland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia support Poland and Lithuania, while the Swedish presidency is also "in favour," a high-level source told EUobserver.

The proposal is designed to help smaller member states have a say in the selection process amid concerns that Germany, France and the UK aim to push through a back-room deal.

If the plan goes ahead it would be a diplomatic coup for Warsaw, which was pushed to the edge of EU decision-making by the confrontational politics of the Kaczynski government in 2006 and 2007.

With just one week to go to 19 November, Paris does not seem enamoured of the idea, however. "For the time being it is not being discussed," a French diplomat told this website.

A former British EU ambassador, Stephen Wall, also poured cold water on the scheme, saying that the appointment is about balancing national and political interests in Europe, rather than individual merit.

"Given that they have to placate the right, the left, the north, the south, the large and small nations, you could have a brilliant presentation but, if the politics didn't fit, what would be the point?" he said in an article in the New York Times on Tuesday.

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