Thursday 22 August 2019

Donald Tusk calls new summit as EU fails to agree candidates for top jobs

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Helen McEntee, Minister for European Affairs, arrive for the European Union leaders summit in Brussels
REUTERS/Yves Herman
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Helen McEntee, Minister for European Affairs, arrive for the European Union leaders summit in Brussels REUTERS/Yves Herman
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Picture: Olivier Matthys/Pool via REUTERS
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrives to the European Union leaders summit in Brussel Picture: Julien Warnand/Pool via REUTERS
European Council President Donald Tusk Picture: REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Harriet Line

Talks aimed at allocating the European Union's top jobs will continue at a special summit later this month after no majority could be reached on any candidate.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the leaders of the 28 member states would meet again on June 30, after discussions lasting four hours failed to reach a conclusion.

The leaders talked about the appointments until 1.45am local time (12.45am Irish time) on Friday at the Brussels summit, before adjourning until the end of the month.

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Mr Tusk told a press conference at 2am (1am Irish time): "The European Council had a full discussion of nominations, taking into account my consultations and statement made within the European Parliament.

"There was no majority on any candidate. The European Council agreed that there needs to be a package reflecting the diversity of the EU. We will meet again on 30th June."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, asked why he expected it would be easier to get a deal on the package of top jobs later in the month, replied: "I don't expect that, but it has to be done."

On Thursday evening, the leaders ate a distinctly British supper: dining on a starter of green asparagus with smoked salmon, followed by a main course of roast beef with rocket and potato cake, and for pudding they had strawberries with lime.

Theresa May - who had expected the summit to be her last as Prime Minister - said as she arrived that she would play a "constructive role" in the discussions.

Earlier, Mr Tusk said that while he had been "cautiously optimistic" about making progress, he had become "more cautious than optimistic".

READ MORE: Taoiseach seeks to shore up EU solidarity

The leaders discussed who should take over from Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker, amongst other roles.

It was hoped a new European Council president, European Commission president, European Central Bank president and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be decided in the talks.

Discussions on the first day of the summit also focused on climate change, disinformation, the long-term EU budget and external relations.

The leaders failed to unanimously agree a decision to make the EU's economy carbon neutral by 2050, with a footnote to the conclusions of the first day of the summit stating: "For a large majority of Member States, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050."

On Friday, the Council will discuss the Economic and Monetary Union and touch on the EU 27's no-deal Brexit preparations ahead of a press conference with Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker to conclude the summit.

The main political groupings in the Parliament have nominated candidates, including German MEP Manfred Weber, for the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), and former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, for the Party of European Socialists (PES).

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.

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.

PA Media

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