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If Not Timmermans, Then Who? EU Leaders Still Struggling to Find Bloc’s New Chief

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.07.01.

EU leaders are still unable to reach a consensus over the distribution of top European jobs, after a plan endorsed by Angela Merkel that would have installed Socialist Frans Timmermans as president of the new Commission, was rejected by EPP. However, he is still in the running. After ongoing talks and discussions for more than a month, it is still unclear who the next EC President will be.

According to numerous press reports, the leaders of the strongest European countries agreed on Friday that Manfred Weber would not be the next president of the European Commission, which was later accepted by his former and most important supporter, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A few days later, rumors began circulating about a compromise between party groups that put Timmermans in the forefront, stating the Dutch Socialist politician, who was the lead candidate by the European Socialist Party for the position, might be nominated for the presidency of the European Commission.

Orbán: Weber, Timmermans ‘Have Failed’

As expected, members of the EPP were against this deal, especially the Visegrád countries, among them Hungary as well. The clear reason behind this other than Timmermans being a Socialist politician, was his being responsible for monitoring how the rule of law was upheld in the EU member states, and the Dutch politician had clashed with the Hungarian and Polish governments numerous times in the past years. Viktor Orbán even wrote a letter to EPP leader Joseph Daul, in which he emphasized that electing Frans Timmermans would be a “historic mistake,” stating that the party would be giving up its EP election victory.

Orbán: EPP Would Be Making ‘Historic Mistake’ by Backing Timmermans for EC President

The European Parliament insists that the President of the European Commission should come from among the top candidates of the European party groups, but the Bavarian Manfred Weber does not have the support of the European Council or the majority of the European Parliament. After the deadlock of the G20 Summit over the weekend, bilateral talks were initiated by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, which concluded early Monday, at the EU Summit in Brussels. After the talks, Tusk invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to further discussions, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the details of the meeting.

It is still unclear whether following the consultations, a consensus can be reached on the leading positions of the EU institutions at the forthcoming EU-wide meeting. According to news portal Politico, if no decision is made, a new summit will be held on July 15th, before the second plenary session of the new European Parliament.

Michel Barnier: Orbán’s New-Old Pick for Commission President?

It is primarily up to the French, German, and Spanish leaders to agree on the new President of the Commission. The main reason is that these three countries are the most powerful, as Angela Merkel is the most influential politician of the European People’s Party, Macron is the leader of the liberal party family, and Sanchez is a strongman of the European socialist party. This is the three-party alliance that the European Parliament factions have to agree on to achieve a stable majority in EU legislation.

Later on Monday, leaders were discussing a proposal that would see Frans Timmermans installed as head of the Commission, Kristalina Georgieva as president of the European Council, and Margrethe Vestager or Charles Michel as the EU’s foreign affairs chief, while the leadership of the Parliament would be split between Manfred Weber and Guy Verhofstadt, Politico reports.

A few hours later Donald Tusk suspended the meeting yet again. The summit will continue on Tuesday at 11. Meanwhile, tasks are stalling ahead of the EU as the budget cycle is reaching its end.

In the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán with President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office.