The EU Special Summit has a tougher struggle for the succession of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signed. After the conservative candidate Manfred Weber initially seemed out of the race, there was massive resistance from Eastern European states against the appointment of the Social Democrat Frans Timmermans from the Netherlands at the meeting on Sunday evening. In addition, conservative heads of state did not simply want to give up their claim to the commission. Participants expected a long night.
The actual beginning of the summit was delayed by more than three hours, because individual heads of state and government tried in preliminary talks to clear their differences. It would be “not very simple deliberations, to say it cautious,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. She pointed out that, despite the victory in the European elections, the conservatives would not have a majority in the European Parliament to pass on their candidate for Juncker succession.
To make Timmermans President of the Commission would be a “historical mistake”, wrote Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in a letter to the leader of the conservative European People’s Party, Joseph Daul. For the EPP as election winner it would be a “humiliation” if “the most important position goes to our biggest rival”. Timmermans is “not a compromise candidate,” said Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. He was “very divisive, he does not understand Central Europe”. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, as other Visegrad states, also opposed Timmermans, who was the former Juncker representative responsible for the EU legal proceedings against Warsaw and Budapest. The populist government in Italy was also Timmerman’s opponent. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was cautious before the summit. “Timmermans is a candidacy that we will evaluate,” he said.
In addition to the post of Commission Chief, the special meeting also concerns the replacement of the posts of EU Council President and Foreign Affairs Commissioner. The new head of the European Central Bank (ECB) will presumably be decided later, according to French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is strictly against the former EPP group leader weaver, he does not consider suitable as Juncker successor due to lack of government experience. This also sees a number of other heads of government from the liberal and social democratic camps.
Weber has not waived the right to the commission. Irish Conservative leader Leo Varadkar said Weber’s candidacy remained on the table. There is “much resistance” to the variant with Timmermans, to which Merkel, Macron and Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez at the G20 summit in Japan.
The liberal camp Macron called Frans Timmermans after the French Brexit Commissioner Michel Barnier and the liberal EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager as a competent candidate for the Juncker succession. He pointed out that there had to be a balance between East and West in the personnel package. In addition, he wanted that of the four top jobs two would be filled with women.
In order to tie up a staffing package around Timmermans, the conflict between Conservatives and Liberals over the future Council President should also be decided. Both sides claim the post. A diplomat said that the issue could fail the personal deal. A joint proposal by the Heads of State and Government would require 21 EU states representing at least 65 percent of the European population.