الثلاثاء , مايو 18 2021

EU summit aims to fill two top jobs

The EU top trio will all have been replaced by the end of November if all goes to plan

EU leaders are heading for a special Brussels summit to decide who should fill two top EU jobs – foreign policy chief and European Council president.

The talks are likely to run late into the evening, as no clear favourite has been announced for either job.

Catherine Ashton will step down as foreign policy chief in November, along with Herman Van Rompuy, the council president who chairs EU summits.

Top women politicians from Denmark and Italy are said to be strong contenders.

The summit comes a day after the European Parliament confirmed Jean-Claude Juncker as the new president of the European Commission – the most powerful job in Brussels.

Mr Juncker, an ardent advocate of closer EU integration, got clear majority support from EU government leaders and MEPs. But the UK government and many British MEPs opposed him, doubting whether he could deliver far-reaching reform of the EU.

Some commentators say the European Council – the government leaders of the 28 member states – may only manage to nominate a foreign policy chief on Wednesday, falling short of agreement on both jobs.

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is reported to be a favourite to become foreign policy chief, but the BBC’s Chris Morris says some eastern European countries have voiced concerns that she may be too inexperienced and too soft on Russia.

Bulgaria’s Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva is seen as a possible compromise candidate for the job.

Single EU voice

The foreign policy chief – officially called high representative – has the challenging job of co-ordinating EU policy in areas such as Iran’s nuclear programme, the stabilisation of Kosovo and sanctions against various countries, including Russia.

The job was created in 2009 with the aim of giving the EU a single voice globally, though critics say the EU still falls well short of that.



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How the EU Council works

The leaders’ priority is to choose the new high representative – who will still have to get approval from MEPs. The appointee will also be a vice-president of the European Commission.

Once that choice is made the EU can appoint the other members of the European Commission – a tough task, as there is intense national rivalry over the most coveted policy areas, such as the internal market, trade and energy.

The team has to be decided by September, when MEPs will grill each one in turn and have the final say on the nominees.

David Cameron has announced that Lord Hill of Oareford, the former leader of the House of Lords, will be the UK’s nomination for commissioner.

Downing Street suggested Mr Cameron would push for the peer to be given one of the key economic portfolios when the other members of the commission are chosen.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is seen as a strong contender to replace Mr Van Rompuy as Council president.

But in 2009 the appointments of Baroness Ashton and Mr Van Rompuy came as a big surprise for many observers, so the summit outcome is unpredictable.

Mr Van Rompuy has had a significant role in setting EU priorities during the eurozone crisis. The role combines strategic planning with the negotiating skills needed to reach consensus in a very diverse Europe.

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