Tuesday

22nd Sep 2020

Decision time looms for EU top jobs

  • Brussels journalists following the summit may be in for a long night on Thursday (Photo: EUobserver)

After weeks of speculation and recriminations over a lack of transparency, EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday evening (19 November) to decide who will take up the new posts created under the Lisbon Treaty.

A new permanent president of the European Council and a beefed-up high representative for foreign affairs are designed to increase the EU's visibility on the world stage and help co-ordinate its work back home.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But after the jubilation that greeted the Irish Yes result in a second referendum and Czech President Vaclav Klaus' eventual signing of the treaty, the recent backroom dealing has both been very difficult and left the EU open to criticism about the lack of democracy in its decision-making process.

The successful compromise candidates looks set to win out as a result of their inoffensive positions, political family, and geographic origins, rather than as a direct result of their merits.

Accusations of a Franco-German stitch-up, gender imbalance, and concerns about one candidate's support for the Iraq war have all surfaced during the past weeks, sending the Swedish EU presidency into overdrive as it scrambles to find consensus personalities.

The country's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, admits his two rounds of telephone discussions with EU leaders have not produced clear names ahead of Thursday's meeting, leaving open the possibility of a drawn out summit or an eventual vote by qualified majority.

"I need, of course, the collaboration of my colleagues to try to get this through ... It might take a few hours. It might take all night," said Mr Reinfeldt on Wednesday.

The Swedes have reportedly taken the precaution of ordering Friday morning breakfast in the council for the EU leaders.

Transparency

Despite an eastern European push for greater transparency, including Polish calls for candidate presentations, few former or current EU leaders have been willing to formally declare their candidacies for the post of council president.

While former UK prime minister Tony Blair was one of the first names to circulate in the pages of the European press, current Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy has emerged as the frontrunner.

Fresh news broke on Thursday that confirmed the existence of a Franco-German alliance behind Mr Van Rompuy, with German ambassador to Belgium, Reinhard Bettzuege, admitting to the De Morgen daily newspaper that Chancellor Angela Merkel was backing the Belgian leader.

Other names frequently mentioned include Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker and his Dutch counterpart Jan-Peter Balkenende while many of Europe's women would like to see a woman take the post.

In a show of protest against the over-representation of men in senior EU posts, 20 MEPs dressed in suits and ties protested in front of the EU legislature on Wednesday.

The floor also remains largely open for the potentially more powerful position of high representative for foreign affairs, with EU pundits increasingly wondering how the future holder will manage the busy schedule of the multi-faceted job.

UK foreign minister David Miliband has apparently ruled himself out for the job that is expected to go to a centre-left candidate, with Italy's Massimo D'Alema another contender.

But the lack of consensus over either of the posts means a dark horse may yet steal the show.

"Amongst the disagreement, I'm hoping my name may yet emerge as a compromise," official candidate for the president job, and former EU ambassador to the US, John Bruton told EUobserver on Wednesday.

Belarus opposition leader urges EU to be 'braver'

The Belarus oppositon leader asked the EU not to support the Belarus authorities financially, and not to recognise Lukashenko as the country's president when his term ends in November.

Exclusive

'Big Three' EP groups nominate homophobe for Sakharov prize

The centre-right EPP, centre-left S&D, and liberal Renew Europe have all nominated a homophobe for the Sakharov prize - the prestigious annual prize handed out by the European Parliament to people who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Cyprus leaves EU ministers red-faced on Belarus

EU foreign ministers will have nothing to show Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya when they meet her in Brussels on Monday, after Cyprus blocked sanctions.

Coronavirus

EU seals new Covid-19 deal amid global distribution fears

The European Commission sealed a second Covid-19 vaccine deal, amid fears over the fair distribution of supplies worldwide. So far Brussels has secured, or is negotiating, a stock of nearly two billion doses.

News in Brief

  1. Italy to cut number of MPs by one third
  2. World's richest 1% 'fuelling climate crisis'
  3. Polish government at risk over animal-rights law
  4. UK 'could see 50,000 new corona cases a day'
  5. EU cuts carbon market compensation for industry
  6. Russia and US could scrap another nuclear arms treaty
  7. Turkish president sues Greek newspaper over headline
  8. Hungarian ministry wanted list of journalists' foreign trips

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Borrell gives EU four weeks to save foreign policy
  2. Belarus opposition leader urges EU to be 'braver'
  3. Kyrgyzstan cannot paper over death of Azimjon Askarov
  4. 'Big Three' EP groups nominate homophobe for Sakharov prize
  5. Cyprus leaves EU ministers red-faced on Belarus
  6. EU seals new Covid-19 deal amid global distribution fears
  7. German court hears harrowing testimony of Syria torture
  8. Turkey, Belarus and migration in the EU spotlight This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us