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EU summit live: Six things to look out for as leaders face bumpy start to new EU era

Author : Alastair Jamieson

Source : Euronews

Leaders from across Europe gather on Thursday for a bumpy summit that could see major clashes over how to fill the top jobs in Brussels
23:28, 20 June 2019

EPA

Leaders from across Europe gather on Thursday for a bumpy summit that could see major clashes over how to fill the top jobs in Brussels.

More than one month after elections to the European Parliament, there seems little sign of agreement between parliamentary groups or between member state prime ministers on who should replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the president of the European Commission.

The logjam could also delay appointments to other major roles such as President of the European Central Bank and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs.

At previous summits, Franco-German hegemony has built support around a favoured candidate. But there is disagreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who supports centre-right technocrat Manfred Weber, and President Emmanuel Macron who has floated other candidates including centre-left Frans Timmermans, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier or Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Related: Matti Maasikas to become new EU Ambassador in Ukraine

In previous years, the largest political grouping in the parliament shapes the Commission, but the European election results have left no political grouping with a clear majority.

The two main groups have lost their majority for the first time in the history of the parliament as voters polarised towards pro-European alliances, Greens or populist anti-EU parties.

Here are your six things to watch out for at this summit:

Another summit?

Thursday sees a European Council meeting, at which EU leaders will “take the relevant decisions on appointments for the next institutional cycle and to adopt the EU's strategic agenda for 2019-2024,” according to the official timetable.

Amid fundamental disagreement, one of the most likely outcomes is that the appointments are delayed until another summit can be organised for the end of June or early July.

Related: Sanctions are only bloodless way to restore peace on European continent, - Zelensky

There will be a working session in the afternoon followed by a “working dinner” and late evening news conference.

On Friday, the EU27 leaders (EU28 minus Britain) will meet for a Euro summit where they are expected to discuss everything from a new budget to “the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union.”

A final post-summit news conference is expected at 12:30 pm CET.

Top jobs

The bloc’s five top jobs are for grabs: Presidents of the European Commission and European Council, foreign policy chief, speaker of the European Parliament and Director of the European Central Bank.

To win the top job as President of the European Commission, a candidate must first be nominated by a qualified majority of the European Council – 21 national leaders — then win approval by a majority of the European Parliament, or 376 of the 751 MEPs.

Efforts to win a compromise took a further hit earlier this month when Macron’s ally in Brussels, French liberal group leader Nathalie Loiseau, reportedly last week dismissed Weber as "ectoplasm.”

Related: EU received almost 33,000 refugees from North Africa and Middle East

The current aim is to have a candidate for parliamentary approval by July 2, when the new MEPs sit formally for the first time.

B-word

Having agreed a non-negotiable extension to Britain’s Article 50 deadline for leaving the EU until October 31, European leaders had been looking forward to their first summit in years where Brexit was not on the agenda.

However, as the UK's EU membership was extended to October 31, EU leaders agreed at their European Council summit in April to review progress at this June gathering. Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk are expected to give a short update, including on the EU's preparedness for a "no deal" scenario.

Related: EU condemns death penalty in Belarus

Several of the candidates to replace British prime minister Theresa May have suggested they will seek further negotiations over the Irish border backstop — something EU leaders have repeatedly ruled out.

Climate change

Eight countries are pushing for a firm commitment to the ambitious draft climate plan for 2050. Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden all want to send a “strong message” of European leadership ahead of a landmark United Nations summit in September, according to Euractiv.

However, other member states, including Estonia, Hungary and Poland, want to stick to existing targets and say the deadline for climate neutrality — zero emissions — should be softened to “mid-century” rather than the explicit date of 2050.

Related: Le Pen wins most votes in France during European Parliament election

A recent audit showed the EU is on track to meet its headline pledge of cutting emissions by 40% by 2030. However, there is concern that tough new targets will hurt competitiveness and cost jobs.

Expansion for Albania and North Macedonia

While Britain struggles to decide how to leave the EU, other countries are figuring out how to join.

Albania and North Macedonia were supposed to have started membership talks on terms to be agreed at this week’s summit. But EU governments have already pushed that process back by several months.

In particular, Germany says the process needs the approval of its parliament which minister Michael Roth said “has so far had too little time” to debate the issue.

Related: 21 EU countries elect their representatives to European Parliament

The delay has caused alarm in the Balkans, particularly in North Macedonia where pro-EU politicians are struggling with the rise of populist rivals.

In a further complication, Cyprus has threatened to veto any agreement unless the EU confront Turkey over drilling in their territorial waters in the Mediterranean.

Budget deal

The European Commission wants EU27 leaders to “make a push in advancing the negotiations on the EU's next long-term budget 2021-2027” so that a final deal can be reached by autumn.

It wants to avoid a repeat of the last process in which approval “was adopted six months too late, “having negative consequences for many citizens, in our member states and beyond.”

Read the original text at euronews.

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