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European Union leaders fail to agree on nomination for top jobs

24 June 2019

European Union leaders wrapped up a two-day summit on a low note on Friday (21 June), having failed to agree on the distribution of the EU's top jobs for the next five years and watering down a landmark climate agreement for 2050. "We will meet again on June 30".

In which case, who will lead the Commission and what does that mean for the haggling over the posts of president of the European Council, speaker of parliament or EU foreign policy high representative?

The bloc's top five jobs - including the head of the European Council tasked with crafting compromises between member states, whose particular interests often vary - are all changing hands later this year after an EU-wide election.

The date was therefore relegated to a footnote in the conclusions, which says: "For a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050".

Whatever the process, the pressure is on to finalise a decision at the Sunday summit given the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg starts only two days later on 2 July.

However, Emmanuel Macron is thought to favour appointing the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to the role of European Commission president, limiting Germany's power in the bloc which would grow if Mr Weber became Commission president.

"I'm calling on all parties to be reasonable and keep talking", he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who two years ago launched the "One Planet Summit" aimed at speeding up the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, pledged to continue the fight within the European Union and at the next G20 summit.

The liberal group has put forward a "Spitzen Team" made up of figures including European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt and Danish EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The newly elected legislature has refused to rally behind Weber, even though he heads the biggest faction there, the European People's Party (EPP).

"Weber's claim is imploding".

"The Parliament's preferences have to be taken into account, he said at his final press conference, "but choosing the Commission president is our [the Council's] competence".

In recent years it has been dominated by the centre-right EPP, but Juncker was also a former Luxembourg prime minister and he owes the job as much to his friends on the Council as to parliamentary support. What was questioned today is what the political party system has raised.

The fifth job in the package of prominent postings up for grabs is the EU's chief diplomat.

Other names in the frame include Frenchman Michel Barnier, now the EU's Brexit negotiator, Denmark's Margrethe Vestager, now the bloc's top competition official, and Belgium's caretaker Prime Minister Charles Michel.

"I have nothing against a German candidacy, I said it and it wasn't a joke, had the chancellor been a candidate, I would have supported her, because I think she has the qualities, the skills to be a very good president of the Commission".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had boosted momentum toward a deal when she endorsed for the first time the target of having the bloc produce no more emissions than it absorbs by 2050.

The difficulty was summarized by Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, who compared the discussions to the selection of another sacred office.

European Union leaders fail to agree on nomination for top jobs