الجمعة , يونيو 12 2020

EU summit fails to fill two top jobs

The leaders’ choices for the top jobs need to strike a balance acceptable to all 28 nations

EU leaders have failed to agree on who should fill two top EU jobs – foreign policy chief and European Council president – at a Brussels summit.

They have announced more sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict and called for new EU-backed investments in Russia to be suspended.

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

No clear successors have emerged yet.

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

Reports say a new summit will be held at the end of August in order to reach a deal on the nominees for the top jobs.



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How Europe deals with the rest of the world – Matthew Price explains

The proposed new sanctions against Russia go beyond the current travel bans and asset freezes against individuals.

The leaders want the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to suspend new financing operations in Russia.

The EU will also make a list of Russian organisations to be hit with sanctions because they are “materially or financially supporting actions undermining or threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

The sanctions “targeting entities” could take effect at the end of this month.

On arrival, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia “hasn’t done enough to secure peace in Ukraine”.

The summit has now ended. It came 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.

Diplomats say the EU was split over whether Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini should become foreign policy chief. Some eastern European countries voiced concerns that she could be too inexperienced and too soft on Russia.

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

Reports say there is strong diplomatic pressure for an eastern European to get one of the big jobs this time.

Two women tipped for top EU jobs: Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt (left) and Italy’s Federica Mogherini

The EU top trio will all have been replaced by the end of November if all goes to plan

Finland’s new Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, quoted by Reuters news agency, said “We need to find the right balance between political parties, between north and south, between male and female.

“A lot needs to be taken into account, but the most important thing is competence.”

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.

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.

The EU also has to 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 at detailed hearings and have the final say on the nominees.



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How the EU Council works

Lord Hill of Oareford, the former leader of the House of Lords, will be the UK’s nomination for commissioner.

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

In 2009 the appointments of Baroness Ashton and Mr Van Rompuy came as a big surprise for many observers.

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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