Wednesday

17th Jul 2019

EU no closer to consensus on names for top jobs

  • EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday evening to discuss the nominations (Photo: EUobserver)

One day ahead of an EU summit to agree the names for two new posts designed to make the European Union more coherent on the international stage, the nomination process remains in disarray.

The Swedish EU presidency has been trying to whittle down the list to two possible candidates - one each for the president of the European Council and EU foreign policy chief - using exhausting rounds of telephone diplomacy.

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But the numerous factors which have to be taken into account when making an EU decision of this kind mean that the two political jobs, as well as a third, seldom mentioned but powerful civil servant job, the secretary general of the council, have to mesh along political, national and geographic lines.

The complexity, which has been likened to trying to solve a Rubik's Cube, has resulted in the list for both jobs appearing to get longer as the summit approaches, rather than shorter.

On Tuesday (17 November), Madrid announced that Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos was in the running for the post of top diplomat. His name had previously not been publicly mentioned on the roster of possible contenders, which also includes former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema.

Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy is still portrayed as the favourite to get the presidency post. But other names including the leaders of Luxembourg and the Netherlands remain on the putative list. Some diplomats suggest that ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair, whose chances were seen as next to nil last month, is not yet completely out of the running.

At the moment, member states appear to agree that the EU presidency post should go to someone from the centre-right while the foreign policy job should go to a centre-left politician.

But adding another criterion to the mix, several women politicians have complained that women are not being mentioned as serious contenders for any of the posts

"It is a lie and we should all protest against that because it implies that somehow talent was distributed only to those with one kind of chromosome," former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga told The Times.

The whole process has been further complicated by its secret nature. Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt has admitted that no serving prime minister wants to publicly say they are interested in the presidency job unless they are sure to get it, fearing a political backlash at home if they return empty-handed.

The Swedes concede the nomination process has unravelled somewhat as consensus seems remains far off on the eve of the summit. The Swedish EU presidency has let it be known that it has ordered breakfast for EU leaders on Friday morning if no agreement can be found at dinner on Thursday evening.

The threat to extend summits for as long as possible is a familiar tactic ahead of meetings that look like they are going to be contentious, however.

Some diplomats have said that Mr Reinfeldt's aim to get consensus on two names ahead of the leaders' meeting was always going to be difficult.

"You have to get them [EU leaders] around the table first. That's when you're going to see some movement towards agreement," one diplomat remarked to this website.

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