Europe’s leaders are meeting on Thursday in Sibiu, Romania to discuss their “strategic agenda” for the next five years, including holding talks over the top contenders for major posts ahead of the European elections on 23-26 May.
The EU heads will be keen to display some semblance of unity as part of an effort to avoid spending more time on Brexit and will instead focus on what is being deemed a “take back the European agenda”, according to an EU diplomatic source.
Amid UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s conspicuous absence, the 27 leaders will turn their attention to defending a united Europe.
The Sibiu Summit will serve as a forum to prepare a “new strategic agenda for the EU by 2024”, a senior European official said while briefing the press in Brussels. “It is quite difficult to discuss a future strategic agenda without touching on the issue of a renewal of the leaders of the institutions,” he added.
The informal Sibiu gathering should lay the groundwork for the presidential race, which will start with that of the European Parliament following the May elections.
The key position in question is, of course, the successor for current Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Juncker was elected via the lead candidate, Spitzenkandidat, process and was then supported by the European People’s Party (EPP), currently, the most dominant political group[ at the European Parliament.
The choice of the candidate belongs to the European Council, but the so-called “Spitzenkandidaten process”, as it is known in the Brussels bubble, remains controversial. French President Emmanuel Macron has opted not to support the lead candidate method for choosing a frontrunner and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, remains uncommitted, though he is expected to”inform the leaders on how he intends to organise the process of appointment of the next leaders of the EU institutions while in Sibiu, according to an EU official.
Finalising the led candidate process has a chequered past as in 2014, it took three summits and three months to decide on the EU positions. Both the European Council and European Commission have said that an extraordinary summit on 28 May will take place to discuss the positions the results of the European elections.