Decisive stages in race for the EU's top post

At Thursday's EU Summit European leaders failed to agree on who should succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission President. The decision has been postponed until a special summit scheduled for 30 June. While Merkel wants the post to go to EPP lead candidate Manfred Weber, Macron favours Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager or Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

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Neatkarīgā (LV) /

What if Merkel won't be knitting socks after all?

Neatkarīgā reflects on the speculation surrounding the allocation of top EU jobs:

“We are hearing ever louder voices in the German press and among opinion leaders that when she 'retires' Merkel will not be sitting by the fire and knitting socks, but that she might in fact become president of the EU Commission! This is either a political tactic by the Germans to intimidate Macron, who is pitting himself against Weber, by threatening him with Merkel who no one really can argue with. Or Merkel actually wants to remain at the top of European politics.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

German puppet masters would make things easier

The wrangling for top posts in the EU will take far longer than usual because Berlin is weaker than before, Lidové noviny writes:

“Angela Merkel had a tight grip on the European People's Party through the CDU, while Martin Schulz controlled the European Social Democrats through the SPD. Many saw that as a German hegemony. But for others it was a good thing because it made it easier to reach clear decisions even in an impasse. ... Things are different now. As a result, the leadership debate looks set to last some time. But this debate is also a test run for how to reach agreements under the new conditions in the EU, where conservatives and social democrats are weaker and nationalists and Greens, stronger.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Distribute the posts and get to work

The process of distributing the top jobs shouldn't be dragged out unnecessarily, Kauppalehti comments:

“It would be good if the top posts were assigned before Finland's EU presidency begins in July. If the wrangling over who gets which post drags on into the autumn there will be no progress on issues like the fight against climate change or reaching a consensus on the financial framework for the coming years. The easiest solution would be for the heads of state and government to appoint Manfred Weber, the lead candidate of the EPP, the group that emerged as the strongest from the EU elections, as EU Commission president. That would also keep the confrontations with the EU Parliament to a minimum, which has already stipulated that it only accepts one of the lead candidates of the parties.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Monopoly on top posts has been broken

Mette Fredriksen, leader of the Social Democrats who recently won the parliamentary elections in Denmark, has announced that she backs the candidacy of the liberal EU Commissioner Margarete Vestager. Jyllands-Posten sees this as breaking up the bloc structures in the EU Parliament:

“The elections to the European Parliament have shown that voters continue to back the big pro-European parties, but also that the conservatives and socialists no longer have a monopoly on the attractive posts. There is reason enough to be happy that the liberals have been strengthened, both in the EU Parliament and within the circle of heads of government whose task it is to distribute the posts. Denmark clearly has a strong candidate in this game that has now begun in earnest.”

Denik (CZ) /

Margrethe Vestager is the ideal candidate

Former Danish foreign minister and current EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is the most suitable candidate for the job, Denik contends:

“She took part in the election campaign as a 'lead candidate'. The Liberals have emerged considerably strengthened from the elections. As a Dane she has a penchant for environmental policy, so she would have no problem accepting the Greens as a new member of Europe's big four. Her nomination could be a compromise in the tug of war between the Parliament and the Council, so that the two sides can bury the axe before the next European elections. The final advantage: An elegant woman would be the EU leader for old men. The union would no doubt be delighted about that.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Even the name is repugnant

Mariann Öry, Magyar Hírlap's foreign desk editor, has her suspicions about why Macron wants to prevent Manfred Weber from becoming Commission president:

“Emmanuel Macron certainly won't contribute to the efforts to maintain the illusion that the lead candidate system is still alive. The French president despises the whole thing, even the name - 'spitzenkandidat' [in French too] - is German. This procedure that was pushed through by the European Parliament against the wishes of the leaders of the member states is necessarily advantageous for the big party groups. But from Paris's point of view it's not a democracy but a 'partocracy'. And that's annoying for Paris because it's the Germans rather than the French who dominate in both the EPP and the Socialist parliamentary group.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Wanted: charismatic leader

The search for a successor to Juncker must not take too long, Handelsblatt warns:

“The EU is under a huge amount of pressure: it must stand up to the world powers the US and China, deal with climate change and steel itself for future waves of migration, to name just a few of the challenges it faces. To do all this it needs capable leaders. At the EU summit on June 22 it should at least be determined who Jean-Claude Juncker's successor will be. At the same time, however, the EU heads of state and government must not give in to the temptation to nominate a weak Commission president who dances to their tune. The EU needs a charismatic person at its helm who can meet the leaders of China and the US on an equal footing and who has what it takes to convince the people of Europe.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Good prospects for Barnier

The model of the lead candidate has had its day, writes political scientist Cornelia Woll in Le Monde:

“The lead candidate's lack of legitimacy and opposition from the states risk tilting the balance in favour of someone on whom it would be easier to agree - for example Michel Barnier. ... With the Brexit negotiations he became the face of a united Europe. He has the firm support of the French president, and his chances are almost as good as those of the official lead candidates. Then again, even more surprising names are also conceivable, for example Christine Lagarde or Angela Merkel, who announced the end of her chancellorship in 2018.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

Macron and the new force in the centre

Radio Europa Liberă explains how Macron could stop EPP lead candidate Weber from becoming Juncker's successor:

“The top dogs in the EU have already taken the first steps in the contest for the highest posts in the EU institutions. The task is all the more pressing given that the results of the European elections will make it difficult to establish a balance of power within what looks to be a deeply fragmented Parliament. At the side of the liberal Macron a new centrist force has emerged which, with 109 seats, will be the third-strongest force in Parliament. Already on Monday Macron met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Europe's most prominent Socialist leader, to discuss a possible alliance. Together they could prevent the EPP's leading candidate from taking the top job in the EU Commission.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Weber's candidacy not optimal

Gazeta Wyborcza explains why Manfred Weber could be left empty-handed:

“If Merkel insists on Weber a long dispute between Berlin and Paris will begin in the EU. ... In addition, it's possible that at the summit the decision will be made that at least one of the key posts - the presidency of the Commission or of the European Council - should go to a woman. The balance between East and West will also play a role in determining the EU leadership. In the discussion about Juncker's successor the Danish EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the French chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier and the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, former EU commissioner and Chief Executive of the World Bank, are all in the running.”

hvg (HU) /

Fidesz is a red flag for Alde

It won't be all that easy for Weber to get the support he needs from the liberal group in the EU Parliament, writes hvg:

“As long as the EPP doesn't expel the Hungarian ruling Fidesz party there will be no cooperation with Alde, according to Pascal Chafin, number two on the list of Macron's party La République en Marche. ... At first it's hard to understand just what kind of cooperation he's talking about. But if you think a step further it's clear that while the EPP is still the strongest group in the EU Parliament, it lost seven percentage points in comparison to 2014. So if Weber wants to be Commission president he'll need backers. His most obvious ally is the liberal group Alde, to which Macron's party belongs and which has won a record 109 seats in the EU Parliament.”