EU leaders pull all-nighter at summit on key positions

EU leaders pull all-nighter at summit on key positions

European Union leaders have pulled an all-nighter at a summit but failed to agree on the list of candidates for the bloc's key posts, with the marathon talks entering a second day.

The leaders trickled in for bilateral contacts throughout Sunday before officially convening at around 8pm.

They have been locked in talks ever since amid deep divisions over how best to balance political, geographic and gender considerations among the 28 member nations.Dutch socialist Frans Timmerman is still being considered as a replacement for Christian Democrat Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission.

This is despite concerns from some within the European People’s Party-Christian Democrat group about ceding the post to the rival Socialists & Democrats bloc.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Francois Lenoir/AP)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Francois Lenoir/AP)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, an EPP stalwart, posted a video on his verified Facebook account of a discussion with Mr Timmermans in which Mr Borissov said the Dutchman should get the Commission job while the less coveted parliament presidency should go to EPP candidate Manfred Weber.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted that the “vast majority of the EPP prime ministers don’t believe we should give up the presidency of the Commission quite so easily, without a fight”.

Another key appointment was to replace Donald Tusk as head of the agenda-setting European Council.

You think that one candidate or another possibly has the best chance and it keeps shifting

The task was never going to be easy: the appointments must take into account political affiliation, geography – balancing east and west, north and south – population size and gender.

The leaders of EU institutions are supposed to impartially represent the interests of all member nations on the global stage and in Brussels.

Some leaders discussed the roster of upcoming vacancies, which also include the EU’s top diplomat, the president of the European Parliament and the chief of the European Central Bank, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan that concluded on Saturday.

Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker’s mandates expire at the end of October.

Asked about likely candidates for Mr Juncker’s job at the European Commission, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “That’s a moving picture.”

“You think that one candidate or another possibly has the best chance and it keeps shifting,” he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “spirit of compromise and above all ambition” as the leaders look to name what he described as “the new Team Europe”.

European Council President Donald Tusk, left, welcomes Renew Europe party member Guy Verhofstadt prior to a meeting (Virginia Mayo/AP)
European Council President Donald Tusk, left, welcomes Renew Europe party member Guy Verhofstadt prior to a meeting (Virginia Mayo/AP)

“There should be two men and two women” candidates for four of the five posts up for grabs in coming weeks, he said.

Mr Macron, like Mr Rutte, declined to say who he was backing.

The discussions about who should take over at the EU’s helm for the next five years were suspended by Mr Tusk at around 11pm on Sunday and will resume following bilateral meetings.

He wants nominations to be wrapped up soon, seeking to prevent further erosion of public confidence in the EU amid Brexit uncertainty and intra-bloc divisions over managing migration.

The European People’s Party, which is made up of Christian Democrats, and the S&D are the two biggest political groups in the EU, but both lost seats in May’s polls, where far-right and populist parties, pro-business liberals and the Greens made gains.

EU leaders want to fill the positions soon because the European Parliament is set to pick a new president next Wednesday.

- Press Association

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