Leaders from the EU met in Brussels for a two-day summit in a bid to nominate the next president of the European Commission, as well as fill other key political posts. Negotiations over the top jobs have proved particularly complex in the aftermath of the recent European elections which resulted in the centrist coalition of the EPP and Socialists losing their majority for the first time since elections to the European Parliament were held. Tensions over the appointment of the next Commission president have been particularly evident between France and Germany with the former resisting the candidacy of EPP president Manfred Weber who is the preferred choice of Berlin. These concerns were echoed by the Renew Europe group on Thursday which highlights the difficulties facing the EPP nominee. With talks last night ending in disagreement, EU Council President Donald Tusk has reconvened a new summit for June 30th in a further attempt to break the impasse.
While an array of outcomes is still possible over the coming hours and days, the EPP may have no choice but to settle on controlling the Presidency of the European Council. Former leader of the German Social Democrats Sigmar Gabriel has come out in favour of Chancellor Angela Merkel succeeding Donald Tusk. While Merkel has so far muted such talk of taking up the role, at least publicly, momentum is growing behind her candidacy which would also likely be acceptable to Paris. Other candidates such as Michel Barnier, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager are seen as the front runners to replace Jean-Claude Juncker in the Commission.
The summit, which concluded earlier today, also involved discussions on the EU’s strategic agenda for the next five years, the forthcoming EU budget, climate action as well as broader international affairs.
Speaking after a meeting in Brussels with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted that there was “enormous hostility” among his fellow leaders when it came to the question of a further extension to Article 50.