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Summit to puzzle out top jobs in Brussels this weekend

European Union leaders from the 28 member states who were due to convene on Brussels this weekend to complete “the full puzzle” of the EU top jobs for the next five years, will now apparently only confirm successor to Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. Leaders will need to decide who will succeed Van Rompuy and Ashton before the new President elect of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, can complete his team of commissioners for the next five years in early September. Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister, is the favourite to replace Ashton. However, should she fail to secure support, it is believed that Rome might forward another candidate for the post of Italian commissioner.

Donald Tusk (ECR), the Polish prime minister, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt (S&D), the Danish Prime Minister, have been linked to the post of European Council President. Reportedly, although Juncker now has a number of scenarios in mind, he must now await the outcome of the two Council posts before confirming his team. As far as the new College of Commissioners is concerned, Belgium, Denmark and Cyprus are the countries that are yet to announce their candidates for Commissioner. In the case of Belgium, the reason for the delay is the ongoing negotiation to form a government. Belgium is getting close to form a centre-right coalition government, in which the parties represented would be the Flemish CD&V (EPP affiliated), the Flemish nationalist NVA, the Flemish liberal Open-VLD, the French-speaking MR (Mouvement Réformateur), also ALDE affiliated. With the clock ticking ahead of Friday’s summit, the most likely Belgian candidates for commissioners are Didiers Reynders from the MR party and Marianne Thyssen, a politician from CD&V. Reportedly though, with only four women so far nominated to be part of the next EU executive, the European Parliament is insisting that the gender balance should be further improved before prospective commissioners face their auditions in the Parliament in September. A gender imbalance will probably favour Marianne Thyssen over Reynders. Other countries are also facing an uphill battle to get their candidates nominated. In the UK press this week, it was claimed that Juncker had to Google Lord Hill, the coalition government nomination, to find out who he was, which does not bode well for the UK securing a leading portfolio.

Finally, in relation to the environment, energy and climate portfolios, NGOs are watching with interest Mr Juncker’s allocation of portfolios. They are also waiting to see how he distributes the lead competence for environmental policy areas like GMOs among the Commission’s departments.  A DG Environment source said the current separation of climate and environment into different departments had worked well and should continue, as it had ensured that there were always two pro-environment voices at the Commission table.


Photo: Yanni Koutsomitis

Issue 36