EU summit to only decide on Van Rompuy and Ashton successors
The extraordinary EU summit on Saturday, which was expected to put together “the full puzzle” of the top jobs for the next five years, will only decide on the successors of Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, sources told the EU news and policy site EurActiv on Tuesday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission Presidentelect, is reported to be convinced that it is not possible to decide on the composition of the future Commission before leaders decide who will succeed Van Rompuy and Ashton.
If the summit decides on the two top jobs, it is expected that Juncker would come up with a list of commissioners and of portfolios in the first or the second week of September.
The reason, sources explained, is that if leaders decide not to appoint Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister, as a successor to Ashton, Rome might nominate another person as Italian commissioner. A number of countries including Poland oppose the appointment of Mogherini as EU foreign affairs chief due to her lack of experience on the Russian dossier and the traditionally pro-Moscow positions of Italy.
According to diplomatic sources, it would not be correct to say that only Eastern European countries had opposed Mogherini, and reportedly France had also done so “in a very elegant way”.
“Mr Juncker has two or three scenarios in mind, but he cannot decide before this decision [on Ashton’s successor] is taken,” a source close to the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg said.
It is also expected that Juncker will first present a list of the Commissioners, followed by a list of the Commissioners’ qualifications.
Such a strategy, however, is likely to clash with the views of several member countries, who insisted over the failed summit held during the night of July 16 to 17 that there was a need to see the “full picture”. Eastern EU countries were the main reason for the blockage. They argued that no decision could be taken on the two senior positions before they knew what portfolios would be assigned to “their” national commissioners.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in at the press conference following the summit that EU leaders had suddenly realised there was “interdependence” between the distribution of Commission portfolios and the two top jobs.
A senior diplomat from an eastern member state told EurActiv that he didn’t believe that the summit will end up successful, with only the two top job nominations. “There would necessarily be agreements, even if not announced, over attributions,” the diplomat said.
Usually, Van Rompuy is in charge of preparations of EU summits. In fact, the former Belgian Prime Minister has been harshly criticised by member countries for the poor preparation of the 16-17 July summit, as leaders are reported to have known there would be no agreement at the time they sat around the summit table. This time, Juncker is said to be closely associated with the preparation of the August 30 summit.
EurActiv was also told that all countries had made nominations for commissioners, with the unique exception of Belgium.
Reportedly, only four women are likely to be part of the next EU executive (Italy’s Mogherini, Bulgaria’s Georgieva, the Czech Republic’s Jourova and Sweden’s Malmstrom.) There are seven women in the present EU commission, and the European Parliament is insisting that the gender balance should further improve. To mollify the Parliament, Juncker has recently told the Austrian daily Kurier that he would give women candidates the Commission’s Vice President position, and important portfolios.
It is not yet clear if Juncker will participate in the summit, EurActiv was told. EU ambassadors will meet in the COREPER format to prepare the summit on Thursday.
During the first and second week of September, Juncker will table the list of Commissioners, and in October, the European Parliament will vote to approve or reject the new Commission College in its entirety.
November has been set as the target date for the new Commission to take office.
The Cyprus problem, the economy and the portfolio of the new Cypriot EU Commissioner will be on the agenda of a private meeting President Nicos Anastasiades will have with the new President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Saturday. The meeting will take place in the context of the extraordinary European Council where EU leaders will decide on the new President of the European Council and the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Cyprus has submitted two names for Commissioner: European People’s Party and ruling DISY MEP Christos Stylianides and the President of the European Party (Evroko) Demetris Syllouris. The final decision will be taken by the President of the European Commission after consultations with European leaders.