Brussels (MunichNOW News / dpa) – EU leaders are due Tuesday to begin haggling over the bloc’s next top appointments, but the success of eurosceptic parties in weekend elections has also raised bigger questions about the bloc’s future course.
In the recent campaign, European political parties for the first time put forward lead candidates for the post of European Commission president. The commission proposes laws and plays an important role in ensuring they are implemented.
However, the successful nominee must now win the backing of the EU’s 28 governments as well as the European Parliament.
“It will be too early to decide about names,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told leaders in his invitation to the Brussels talks. Instead, he said, they will discuss the “process leading to … proposing a candidate.”
Former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, the nominee of the centre-right European People’s Party, has said he feels “entitled” to the post after his party won the most seats in the new legislature.
But without any absolute majorities in Parliament, the successful candidate will need cross-party backing. Parliamentary leaders met Tuesday morning to consider the way forward, hours before the leaders’ summit.
Several member states have indicated they do not feel bound by Parliament’s selection process, prompting fears of a possible institutional crisis in Brussels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she expected months of negotiations to settle the “package” of top European appointments. Van Rompuy’s job and that of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are also among those up for grabs.
But Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, one of the few EU leaders bolstered by a win at the polls, said he and his peers should not squabble over appointments.
“The problem is not ‘What’s in it for me? What commissioner should I have?'” he said. “We have a far higher ambition: to change Europe.”
Sunday’s election results have prompted soul-searching over the EU’s future course with the loudest calls for change coming from those countries where ruling parties lost ground to eurosceptic forces.
French President Francois Hollande, whose Socialists were pushed into third place by the resounding success of the anti-EU National Front, told French television viewers Monday that the bloc had become “illegible” and “remote” for many.
“This cannot go on,” he said. “Europe must be simple, clear and effective on subjects where people expect it [to intervene] and withdraw from those where it’s not needed.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country voted overwhelmingly for the anti-EU UK Independence Party, echoed the call for change, delivering his message in telephone calls with several of his EU counterparts Monday.
“The turnout and results in the European Parliament elections have underlined the need for reform to ensure that the EU is doing more to deliver what voters care about: jobs, growth and a better future,” an official in Cameron’s office said.
The focus of EU leaders during their one-day summit is also due to turn to Ukraine’s presidential elections, in which pro-Western business tycoon Petro Poroshenko won 54 per cent of the vote.
The European Union has welcomed the “successful” elections as an “opportunity for a fresh start for the country” as well as for Russia to enter into dialogue with the new president.
The bloc had previously threatened to ratchet up sanctions against Russia if, in the EU’s eyes, it continues to destabilize the situation in Ukraine.