World Insights: EU leaders agree on top EU posts after complex political bargaining, but suspense remains -Xinhua

World Insights: EU leaders agree on top EU posts after complex political bargaining, but suspense remains

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-06-28 18:58:51

BRUSSELS, June 28 (Xinhua) -- EU leaders reached agreements on Thursday regarding key leadership positions during the European Council summit.

The leaders agreed on nominating Germany's Ursula von der Leyen for the second term as president of the European Commission. They also agreed to elect former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa as president of the European Council, while nominating Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas as the EU's foreign policy chief.

While Costa will assume his position on Dec. 1, both von der Leyen and Kallas still need to secure majority support in the European Parliament to get re-elected. Suspense remains until mid-July when the parliament is scheduled to meet.

At this summit, EU leaders also discussed other issues, including the EU's military support to Ukraine, the regional developments in the Middle East, security and defense, competitiveness, and adopted the EU strategic agenda for the next five years.


Since the European Parliament elections on May 9, many high-level consultations have been held on top EU posts, with each political group bargaining for their own greatest benefit.

Six EU leaders from the three major political groups reached consensus on the EU's top jobs on the eve of the summit. As the nomination validation needs the majority support of the leaders of the 27 states members at this summit, this extremely "sensitive" topic was arranged as the last item for discussion, to avoid delaying other agendas.

Although the president of the European Parliament is elected by 720 members, the post is also regarded as part of political bargains. Roberta Metsola from the European People's Party Group (EPP) was nominated to serve another two-and-a-half-year term, and then a candidate of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) will take over.

In addition to considering the results of the European Parliament elections, EU leaders need to balance multiple factors such as politics, geography and gender when choosing candidates.

Among the four, von der Leyen, Kallas and Metsola are all women. German von der Leyen and Maltese Metsola are both from the EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, and are supported by members of the group, including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk; Costa is Portuguese and comes from S&D, the second largest Party group, and is supported by members of the group, including Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; Kallas comes from Renew Europe, the fourth largest political group, and is supported by French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Costa and Metsola represent southern European countries, von der Leyen represents western Europe and Kallas represents eastern Europe.

The current nomination on top EU jobs was criticized by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the third largest party group in the European Parliament, and is unhappy about being excluded from decision-making and indignant that her right-wing group was not included in the nominations.

At the summit, Meloni voted against Costa and Kallas while she abstained on von der Leyen's re-appointment. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban voted against von der Leyen, in favor of Costa and abstained on Kallas, Euronews reported, citing diplomatic sources.


According to EU regulations, only Costa can take office directly among the four nominees, and the other three still need to go through certain procedures, among which the most important position of the President of the European Commission requires a vote by the European Parliament.

But even so, von der Leyen's re-election is still uncertain. In the European Parliament vote to be held on July 18, she needs to obtain 361 votes out of 720 votes to be re-elected. According to the current seats held by the major party groups in the Parliament, the traditional European Parliamentary Alliance composed of EPP, S&D and Renew Europe Group currently holds 399 seats out of the 720 seats in the Parliament. But not all members of the alliance will vote in favor.

An article published by "Politico Europe" pointed out that in the first two votes for the President of the European Commission, 13 percent of the members of the alliance did not vote in favor of the nominees, which means that relying solely on the support of the three-party alliance may not be enough for von der Leyen to get the required votes.

This means that von der Leyen may also need the support of the group formed by the Greens/European Free Alliance or Brothers of Italy Party (the right-wing European Conservative and Reform Party Group) led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to ensure a majority vote in the parliament.

But the group formed by the Greens/European Free Alliance with 54 seats may not be enough for von der Leyen to win in the parliament, and cooperating with them may cause von der Leyen to lose the support of the EPP, her own party group.

At the same time, if von der Leyen agrees to promise one of the vice president positions of the European Commission to Italy, she is expected to get the support of Meloni's Brothers of Italy with 24 votes, but the S&D has repeatedly warned that cooperating with Meloni or other far-right parties will make her lose their support. Analysts pointed out that this will be a "very delicate balance" that von der Leyen must grasp.

According to the rules, if the candidate for the European Commission nominated by the European Council fails to obtain the required majority vote in the parliament, the president of the Parliament will invite the European Council to nominate a new candidate for voting within one month according to the same procedure.