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EU Leaders End Talks Without Job Noms  06/18 06:04

   Leaders of European Union countries reached no final agreement on candidates 
for the bloc's top jobs Monday, but several praised the record of European 
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and she appeared on track to secure 
their endorsement later this month for a second term in office.

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- Leaders of European Union countries reached no final 
agreement on candidates for the bloc's top jobs Monday, but several praised the 
record of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and she appeared 
on track to secure their endorsement later this month for a second term in 
office.

   "There is no agreement tonight at this stage," EU Council President Charles 
Michel said after chairing an informal dinner summit in Brussels.

   The 27 leaders were weighing the fallout from the recent European elections 
and how to take those results into account as they nominate candidates for the 
top posts.

   "This conversation was today a useful step to prepare the next European 
Council," Michel said, referring to the next meeting of EU presidents and prime 
ministers June 27-28. He refused to be drawn out on the chances of von der 
Leyen and others, saying only: "It will be clarified next week."

   The June 6-9 elections saw the European Parliament shift to the right and 
dealt major blows to mainstream governing parties in Paris and Berlin. The 
Franco-German motor that usually propels EU politics along was notably 
weakened, and hard right parties there gained ground.

   Still, names for the big posts have circulated in Brussels for months.

   Former Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Antnio Costa is frequently 
mentioned for Michel's job -- the role of council president. Estonian Prime 
Minister Kaja Kallas, well known for her tough line on Russia, has been floated 
as the bloc's potential top diplomat.

   Under the EU's treaties, the leaders' choice of candidates should reflect 
the results of the election, sharing the posts among the winners.

   In a post on X, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbn, who leads a staunchly 
nationalist government, said that "the will of the European people was ignored" 
by the other leaders.

   He complained that mainstream parties had "made a deal and divided the top 
jobs of the EU among themselves. They don't care about reality, they don't care 
about the results of the European elections, and they don't care about the will 
of the European people."

   Under the EU's complicated division of powers, the leaders get to nominate 
the next president of the commission, which is responsible for drawing up EU 
policy on everything from climate to the colossal shared budget.

   "I'm positive about Ursula von der Leyen," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte 
told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.

   Over the last five years, Von der Leyen led a huge drive to secure billions 
of COVID-19 vaccine doses during the pandemic, set up an economic recovery fund 
and drummed up support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, including by backing 
Kyiv's future EU membership.

   But Rutte added: "I'm not saying that we support her. There is a big 
possibility that we will, but it will be of course a question of how the whole 
package will emerge."

   That package involves three other top jobs: Council president; EU foreign 
policy chief, currently Josep Borrell of Spain, from the center-left; and 
president of the European Parliament, currently the conservative Roberta 
Metsola from Malta.

   The council president's job is to broker deals between the 27 member states, 
while the top diplomat represents the EU on the world stage.

   German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dodged questions about whether he personally 
endorsed von der Leyen for a second term, but underlined that his backing would 
depend on her working with mainstream parties rather than right-wing parties.

   Ahead of the election, many socialist and Green lawmakers criticized von der 
Leyen for trying to win the support of Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni, 
who is from the right-wing populist Brothers of Italy party.

   "What is clear is that there cannot be a commission presidency based on the 
support of right-wing and right-wing populist parties," Scholz said.

   Several leaders had said they did not expect a final agreement on the 
nominees Monday night, but they did insist the process should not drag on.

   "I don't think there'll be any gratitude from Irish citizens or European 
citizens if politicians here in Brussels are talking for weeks on end about 
who's going to do what role when there are so many pressing issues on a 
European and global level," Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said.

   Von der Leyen, a German conservative who did not speak to reporters as she 
arrived at the summit, is well placed after a strong showing for her 
center-right European People's Party (EPP) parliamentary group.

   But nothing is guaranteed. Von der Leyen's presidential style has at times 
riled her commission colleagues, and she is deeply unpopular in some corners of 
the EU Parliament, where she will need the support of 361 of the 720 lawmakers 
to keep her job.

   Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said mainstream parties -- like the EPP he 
hails from, the center-left Socialists and Democrats, and the pro-business 
liberals -- still hold a majority in the assembly, despite hard right successes 
in France and Germany.

   "My feeling is that it's enough to arrange the whole new (job) landscape, 
including the president of the commission," he told reporters ahead of the 
meeting.

   But Tusk did call for some "public clarification, what is the legal 
situation" surrounding Costa and the corruption scandal in Portugal that forced 
him out of office. Costa stepped down after eight years as head of government. 
He has not been accused of any crime.

 
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