Jean-Claude Juncker (C) speaks on the phone at the end of a EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels, on Monday. Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/ AFP
European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Tuesday for the third straight day of talks aimed at defusing fresh power struggles in a bid to fill the bloc’s top jobs.
The 28 EU leaders who will meet from 11am (0900 GMT) face a new landscape following the May elections in which the dominant political forces lost some of their clout.
“I think that in a few hours (on Tuesday) we will be able to reach an agreement,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after an 18-hour summit session ended in acrimony on Monday.
Despite signs of progress since the talks began Sunday, the leaders remained divided over a Franco-German compromise on who will become the new chief of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.
“Let’s get serious,” an irritated Macron said.
With challenges from climate change to illiberal democracy, the EU must reform the slow way it takes decisions and avoid becoming “hostage” to political groups, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said she still “hoped that with good will a compromise will be feasible” when the leaders meet anew on Tuesday.
The compromise Merkel and Macron forged on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan on Saturday called for Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans to head the commission, rather than his conservative rival German Manfred Weber.
Weber would instead be put forward for election as speaker of the European Parliament, where he leads the largest political bloc. A liberal candidate would succeed Donald Tusk as president of the European Council of national leaders.
But when Merkel put this to fellow centre-right leaders in the European People’s Party (EPP), several rebelled and the summit was thrown into crisis as heads of government shuttled between side meetings on Sunday evening and Monday.
Inaugural parliament session
The EPP is still the biggest bloc in the European Parliament, but it is no longer the dominant force it was before the May elections.
The liberals, which include Macron supporters, are increasingly assertive over the choice of top jobs after they and the Greens made huge gains in those polls.
Even though the Social Democrat bloc also lost ground, Timmermans, the commission’s vice president, emerged as a compromise candidate to head the powerful executive.
Under a new plan, Timmermans would run the commission and the EPP’s Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is currently CEO of the World Bank, would become European Council president, several European sources told AFP.
But Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov later told his country’s news media in Brussels that the liberals were blocking Georgieva for council chief.
Meanwhile, sources said, a liberal could replace outgoing diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini of Italy. That could either be Belgian prime minister Charles Michel or Danish politician Margrethe Vestager, the current anti-trust commissioner.
As for speaker of the European Parliament, the sources added, Weber could serve the first term of two and a half years, then Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister who leads the liberal group in the assembly, serve the next term.
An EU summit on June 20-21 had already failed to break the stalemate over candidates.
For a nominee to go forward, he or she must secure the backing of 21 of the 28 EU leaders, representing 65 percent of the bloc’s population.
The European Parliament, which is also involved in the decision-making, is to debate the candidates in its inaugural post-election session starting on Tuesday.
Berlin's chairing of the 26-member bloc will be its last with Merkel in charge, and could be the one that defines the legacy of the leader dubbed the "eternal chancellor".
European leaders worked through a long night of furious debate on Monday as a bid to find compromise on Brussels’ top jobs ran into stiff opposition.
The European Union intends to keep agriculture off the agenda in its trade talks with the United States and continues to support rules-based, open and predictable international commerce, the EU’s agriculture commissioner said on Friday.
In a tumultuous year marked by economic and social upheavals worldwide as nations battled the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and compounded by tragic disasters such as the Beirut port blasts and several natural calamities including devastating floods in Sudan
The decisions we make Monday will shape the world you will live in tomorrow, said Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE), while addressing the Youth 4 Sustainability (Y4S) Virtual Forum during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2021.
Improving technology and digitalisation have sure contributed to the coping of countries and governments with the one-year-old Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the most compelling realisation is that health is the key to happiness, dependent on one’s attitude and perspective in life; and for which each and every individual must be responsible for.