Package on EU lead jobs agreed

If backed by the EP, Ursula von der Leyen will be the first woman to lead the European Commission

Photo: EU Donald Tusk, European Council President underlined that five years ago were needed three months to decide on EU top jobs, now- three days.

Ursula von der Leyen, German defence minister, was the choice of the EU leaders for President of the European Commission. Charles Michel, Belgium's PM, was unanimously elected as a European Council President and President of the Euro Summit. For foreign policy chief was preferred Josep Borrell, Spain's foreign minister. The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, who led the French finance ministry from 2007 to 2011, was proposed to head the European Central Bank.

After three days of intense consultations and debates, the EU leaders ended their special summit hammering out a solution on the new EU leadership package on the Union's top jobs. Started on 30 June with some seemingly insurmountable controversies, the sitting produced 'white smoke' in the evening of 2 July. Just in the last day, the exercise took eight hours of hard talks, passing through a lot of different combinations of names.

At a news conference after the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk underlined that - five years ago - three months were needed to decide, and still some leaders were against. This year it was three days and nobody was against, even if Germany abstained on the Commission President due to some issues in the government coalition, he added.

The atmosphere of relief that spread over the Europa Building was, however, in sharp contrast to the reactions in the German government, where the nomination of von der Leyen sparked tensions.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel's junior coalition partner, rejected the deal made by the EU leaders at their summit. The arguments voiced by the SPD's interim leaders were that she was not convincing as she never stood for EU elections, and installing her as EC President would make an absurd mockery out of the attempt to democratise the EU.

A harsh reaction against this choice had also Markus Soeder, prime minister of Bavaria and leader of CSU, ally of Merkel's CDU. He pointed out that it was his party's Manfred Weber who had stood as the leading candidate for the EPP, the party that won the elections, and he should replace Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President.

Personally, Chancellor Merkel supported the whole package, President Tusk specified. “First and foremost, we have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions. A perfect gender balance. I am really happy about it, he said. He also explained that if elected by the EP, Ursula von der Leyen will be the first woman to lead the European Commission.

EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who for long during the consultations was a frontrunner for the EC Presidency post, will be in the next institutional cycle among the Commission's vice-presidents, together with Margrethe Vestager, current EU competition commissioner and lead candidate of the Liberals for the EC President position.

According to well-informed sources, Manfred Weber, the EPP's Spitzenkandidat, has been put forward for the job of European Parliament President for one mandate of two and a half years. It has been suggested Bulgarian S&D MEP Sergei Stanishev, who is also PES President, to take the other mandate.

On the EP nominations, the European Council President commented that it is for the Parliament to decide on the names. Our intention is to have a President of the Parliament from the Socialists & Democrats for the first term and a candidate from the EPP for the second term, he stressed, noting that “this is our political opinion”.

On 3 July in Strasbourg, the EP elected David-Maria Sassoli, Italian MEP from the S&D group as EP President. The EPP group did not present a candidate for the job.

On Thursday, the new MEPs held a debate with Donald Tusk and EC Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on the outcome of the special summit during which the leaders of most groups voiced reservations on the European Council's decisions on the new leadership of the key EU institutions. They expressed disapproval of the ignorance shown by heads of state and premiers towards the Spitzenkandidaten process and also stressed that the future of Europe can no longer be decided behind closed doors and through secret plots.

MEPs were very critical of the fact that in the agreed package of names there is nobody from Eastern Europe, which is practically excluded from the leadership. You are telling the EP whom we should nominate as president of our chamber, this is not a democracy, MEPs asserted, adding that deciding how many EC vice-presidents are going to be is clearly against the Treaties.

The first opportunity for the Parliament to elect the Commission President is the second session this month, which will be held in Strasbourg between 15 and 18 July.

 

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