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EU leaders reconvene to resolve top jobs impasse

July 2, 2019

After marathon talks ended without a compromise, EU leaders are meeting again to try and overcome a deadlock over key job nominations. The talks come as the newly elected European Parliament kicked off its first session.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at an EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium
Image: AFP/Getty Images/G. Van der Hasselt

European Union leaders gathered in Brussels on Tuesday for a third day of talks after they failed to come to an agreement on the bloc's top jobs during a marathon 18-hour session the day before.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was entering Tuesday's talks with "new creativity" and urged other leaders to be more open to compromise.

"I think that everyone understands that they need to move a bit" in order to achieve a result, she said. Her remarks come after Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia opposed a possible compromise the day before.

The official start of Tuesday's summit was delayed until the afternoon as European Council chairman Donald Tusk continued separate talks with leaders.

According to German newspaper Die Welt, Tusk has been pushing a new compromise with leaders that would seen German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen becoming the new European Commission president. Under Tusk's plan, the new head of the European Central Bank would be Christine Lagarde — a proposition that Merkel is reportedly open to.

Leaders from the bloc's 28 member-states have been in disagreement for weeks over naming a successor to outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the EU's powerful executive arm.

German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen
Leaders are reportedly discussing having German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen be the next European Commission presidentImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. I. Bänsch

Timmermans 'not acceptable' for some EU states

Following talks yesterday, Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans was favored to take the top European Commission post.

That option didn't sit well with some EU member states, as Timmermans has been a vocal supporter of the refugee quota distribution system and threatened legal action in order to improve rule of law in Hungary and Poland.

"We want somebody on the presidency of the commission who doesn't have a negative view on our region. Mr. Timmermans is not acceptable for us. That's it," Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters as he arrived in Brussels.

Timmermans main challenger Manfred Weber, a German EU lawmaker with the center-right European People's Party (EPP), could possibly end up being the speaker of the European Parliament. Going into the talks, Weber had been favored to succeed Juncker, but appears to have slipped in the rankings during negotiations.

European Parliament convenes

The talks in Brussels came as the European Parliament opened its first post-election session in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

The opening session was disrupted by some newly elected legislators from right-wing parties, Catalan independence supporters and others.

Some lawmakers with the Brexit Party were seen turning their backs while the EU's anthem "Ode to Joy" was playing.

The European Parliament must ratify the top job appointments made by the 28 EU leaders. Lawmakers are due to vote on a new leader for the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The new session follows elections in May that saw the bloc's two traditional center-right and center-left parties lose votes, while the Greens and far-right parties saw solid gains.

Talks on commission president suspended

rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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