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  • EU leaders struggled to reach an agreement, the third attempt in less than a month.

    EU leaders struggled to reach an agreement, the third attempt in less than a month. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 June 2019

European Union leaders attempted but failed on Sunday to reach an agreement concerning candidates for key posts.

A deal agreed upon several key European leaders to appoint Dutch socialist and former foreign minister Frans Timmermans the post of EU chief executive broke down at an emergency summit on Sunday after eastern European and center-right European leaders rejected the plan.

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Timmermans was the candidate who gained the endorsement of key European leaders including the leaders of Germany, France, and Spain, in order to succeed to Jean-Claude Juncker at the head of the European Commission.​​​​​​​ However,  Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia opposed the selection on a special meeting held Sunday. 

The summit was the third attempt in a month to reach a consensus about the candidates who will take over the five top posts, running the European Union for the next five years. “There’s been a center-right revolt against Timmermans,” said one senior EU official.

Eastern European leaders underlined that they were opposed to Timmermans, who in his actual role as vice president of the Commission has repeatedly accused Poland and Hungary of violating civil rights.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for instance, wrote to EU conservative leaders before the summit to reiterate his opposition, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters that Timmermans "is not really the right person to unite Europe."

Meanwhile, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) said on its part that, as it won the most seats in May’s European election, it deserves the Commission president post. Its pick is Manfred Weber, a German EU lawmaker.

“The vast majority of EPP prime ministers don’t believe that we should give up the presidency quite so easily, without a fight,” Ireland’s center-right Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters.​​​​​​​ But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads the EPP bloc, has seen her political powers weaken and consented to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Liberals and Socialists led by Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez have claimed that Weber lacks the political and government experience for such a role. Weber could still be considered for the head of the European Parliament which is the EU’s only elected institution. ​​​

In addition, they are trying to press against what they see as increasing center-right German domination in Brussels, and say they want to focus less on financial austerity and more on issues such as climate change and a higher minimum wage.

The difficulty for reaching consensus highlights the problems facing the EU's 28 nations who represent a wide range of political trends and who has had huge difficulties to address a series of issues including migration, the Brexit crisis, and the economy.

The president of the EU Commission should be chosen before Wednesday when the parliament elects its president, but some diplomats said there were talks of another EU summit to be held on July 15.

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