By N. Peter Kramer
Last week, when the EU leaders left a summit without a decision about the EU top jobs for the second time, Dutch PM Mark Rutte said to reporters, ‘we got nowhere’. Therefore, next Sunday, the EU leaders must reconvene during a dinner.
The deadlock has to be broken because two days later the new elected European Parliament will have his first session in Strasbourg. PM Rutte also told reporters, in his typical low key style, that the delay might in fact not anything to worry about. He mentioned what happened five years ago. In 2014, when it took EU leaders three meetings and a dinner to fill the EU top vacancies.
During this week, some of the leaders will meet each other during the G20 summit in Japan: France (Macron), Germany (Merkel), Italy (Conte), UK (May) and the presidents of the EU Commission and Council (Juncker and Tusk). The main question will be, can Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron reach an agreement. Up until now Berlin and Paris have diametrically opposed each other.
Merkel’s choice for the function of President of the European Commission remains Manfred Weber, the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ of the centre-right EPP. But Macron, and many of the leaders with him, see Weber as a too light weight, with insufficient experience for this job. He has never achieved a more important function than leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament.
But an elimination of this EPP Spitzenkandidat will lead to an elimination of the Socialist and Liberal ones, Frans Timmermans (now 1st Vice-President of the Commission) and Margarethe Vestager (EU Commissioner). The rule is ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. Many other names are circulating. From Barnier (the man who brought Theresa May to her knees at the end of the so-called Brexit ‘negotiations’) to Christine Lagarde (President of the IMF and former French finance minister).
The choice for the Commission President is a part of the carrousel of other EU top functions: President of the EU Council, -sit tight- the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and besides that Vice-President of the Commission and President of the European Parliament. The function of President of the European Central Bank is also open. So a lot of pieces on the chess board to manoeuver.
Interesting then to see what the process will bring? Probably once again we will see four old grey man as Presidents and one woman for the lightest function of the five, High Representative etc.