Thursday 22 March 2018

EU leaders fail to decide on top jobs

Phil Hogan's hopes for Argiculture portfolio suffer potential blow

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Shona Murray in Brussels

EU Leaders last night failed to agree on a package to secure the final two top jobs in the European Union, and have called for yet another extraordinary summit meeting at the end of August.

The central impasse stemmed from some member states to accept the candidacy of Italian foreign affairs minister, Federica Mogherini as the high commissioner for EU foreign policy.

Poland and other Balkan states have said that her tone towards Russia is too conciliatory, particularly, at a time when the EU is ramping up its efforts to end hostilities in Ukraine, as a result of Russian aggression.

Last night, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi agreed to come back to the table in August after trying to railroad through the 41 year old minister who is also considered by some to be too inexperienced, having been appointed a minister for the first time in February this year.

Speculation now exists that the Italians may demand the agriculture portfolio as an alternative to the high commissioner position, which could spell problems for Phil Hogan’s plans as the next EU Commissioner for agriculture.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny denies this, saying, “there was no question about any portfolios being named in respect of the commissioners”, “I spoke to Jean Claude Juncker; he wants to talk over the next period to those who are nominated by countries”.

Mr Kenny also says he didn’t get any confirmation or indication from president-elect of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, about Ireland’s portfolio.

 “Obviously, we would look for the best possible commissionership that we could get”, he insisted.

Gender balance within the commission is a significant issue for Mr. Juncker, who is likely to look for a t least 9 or 10 women commissioners, and has encouraged member states to consider this when naming their commissioners.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that this was an issue that “the European Parliament will consider very seriously”.

So far, only 4 potential nominees are tipped to be female commissioners; none has been confirmed.

Mr Kenny, who has been recently criticised for not promoting any women from his party in the recent reshuffle for junior ministries, admitted that Jean Claude Juncker “also made it clear that there is a need” for female “nominees to be sent”.

Practically, it would be unworkable for Juncker to propose a commission cabinet with less than 9 female candidates (the current number). The European Parliament gives its imprimatur to the whole cabinet, as well as the individual commissioners and is unlikely to do so if women are seen to be underrepresented.

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