Sunday 25 August 2019

EU top jobs deadlock: all night talks fail to yield results, while Varadkar 'doesn't want to be considered'

European Council president Donald Tusk, left, with Renew Europe party member Guy Verhofstadt (Virginia Mayo/AP)
European Council president Donald Tusk, left, with Renew Europe party member Guy Verhofstadt (Virginia Mayo/AP)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

An EU summit to decide who will occupy the top jobs in the European Commission, Council and Parliament for the next five years has been suspended following all-night talks that failed to yield an agreement among leaders.

The summit was suspended by European Council president Donald Tusk this morning as leaders were unable to agree on a package that would have filled the EU's top jobs with plans to reconvene tomorrow at 11am Brussels time.

Leaders from the EU's 28 member states gathered in Brussels last night but the meeting was suspended before midnight as Mr Tusk proceeded to hold a series of bilateral engagements with leaders through the night. EU leaders then reconvened this morning but they have failed to agree on a plan that would divide jobs between various European Parliament groupings.

A tentative proposal to install the Socialist Frans Timmermans as president of the Commission appeared to meet with opposition from central and eastern European countries who are members of the European People's Party, the parliament's largest group. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last night that the majority of EPP leaders did not wish to give up the commission presidency without a fight.

Under the mooted package, the World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva was touted as president of the Council and competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager or Belgian prime minister Charles Michel as the EU’s foreign affairs chief, with MEPs Manfred Weber, who has been the EPP's candidate for the Commission presidency, and Guy Verhofstadt in the frame for European Parliament presidency.

But there was no agreement this morning meaning leaders must now try again tomorrow with a series of back-channel discussions likely to take place over the next 24 hours.

Last night, Mr Varadkar told Mr Tusk that he did not believe he was a candidate for the Commission presidency and did not want to be considered.

Mr Varadkar informed the Council president of his position last night in Brussels amid reports that the Taoiseach’s name was being tested by Mr Tusk in the round of bilateral meetings with EU leaders aimed at breaking the impasse over who will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Financial Times reported that Mr Tusk was holding bilaterals with every EU leader and was testing three names from the EPP, including Mr Varadkar, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Ms Georgieva, a former European commissioner. But an Irish government source said that Mr Varadkar had told Mr Tusk "he’s not a candidate and doesn’t want to be considered".

Last week the Taoiseach poured cold water on suggestions he could be in line for the top EU job. "I have a job, it’s as Taoiseach of Ireland.  I’m loving the job. I’m only getting started, I hope, so I’ve no plans for a career change at this stage," he said.

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