European Union leaders meet on Sunday in Brussels in a special summit to decide who wins the bloc’s top posts after failing to agree earlier this month.
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Up for grabs are the presidencies of the EU’s executive Commission, the parliament, the European Council of EU governments, the EU’s foreign policy chief and the head of the European Central Bank, which governs the euro currency.
German centre-right EU lawmaker Manfred Weber wanted to take the European Commission presidency, as he was the lead candidate for the European People’s Party, the biggest political alliance in the European parliament.
But France’s President Emmanuel Macron has rejected the lead candidate or ‘Spitzenkandidat’ system, which is still supported by Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor has refused to give it up, creating tensions between France and Germany.
Many governments want a balance of men and women and to avoid the top jobs going to members of western EU governments.
Timmermans in pole position
The emerging compromise is to name Weber as the European Parliament president and to give the Commission job to Dutch Socialist politician Frans Timmermans, who France and Spain strongly support.
“Both Spitzenkandidaten are part of the solution — that is very important. As things look now, it won’t come to an institutional conflict,” Merkel told reporters after the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where EU leaders held talks on the EU top jobs.
Barring unexpectedly tough resistance from eastern European countries, Timmermans is set to be chosen after talks between France and Germany at the G20, Reuters reported two diplomats and one European Parliament adviser saying.
If confirmed, the choice would mark a victory for centrists and liberals, who challenged what they saw as an increasingly German-dominated EU at the top ranks in Brussels.
But Timmermans is unpalatable to eastern EU states such as Hungary and Poland, due to his role in the bloc’s rule of law probes against their nationalist governments.
ECB chief likely to be decided subsequently
For investors and financial markets, the most crucial question is who gets to be president of the ECB, which sets interest rates for the eurozone. France could be given the post, one EU diplomat said, naming Francois Villeroy de Galhau, who is governor of the French central bank. Erkki Liikanen, a former Finnish central bank chief, is also a candidate to succeed Mario Draghi.
But as he arrived in Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron said the ECB presidency was likely to be decided subsequently unlike the three other top jobs.