The EU-28 leaders are set to convene again to forge a consensus over who will hold the bloc’s top jobs on Sunday evening in Brussels, with the latest buzz on the top jobs saga putting the Dutchman, and First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, in pole position, as leaders are giving the spitzenkandidaten system one chance of staying alive.
Emerging from the sidelines of the weekend’s Osaka G20 meeting in Japan, where the EU institutions heads, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker along with the bloc’s most powerful leaders met on the sidelines of the Summit, Timmermans’ candidacy as the Party of the European Socialists (PES) top-pick puts the German European People’s Party (EPP) Manfred Weber’s bid likely out of picture.
Two EU Summit meetings on the matter have already failed to produce a good-to-go package for most of the bloc’s leaders, but now it seems that Timmermans is the current favourite to be named as the EU’s next chief executive, as several diplomats and officials confirmed on Sunday, ahead of the meeting in Brussels.
According to an EU diplomat, it was European Council President Donald Tusk that proposed giving the post to the Socialist and Democrats political bloc, even though Timmermans remains unpalatable for the Visegrad leaders and Italy. Having faced off with Hungary and Poland due to their issues with the rule of law, a late Saturday meeting of the Visegrad member states, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, turned down Timmermans’ bid for the EU top job.
Hungary, through its government Spokesperson, has been extremely verbal against the Dutch politician: “Attempting to place Timmermans in the position of Commission president, George Soros wants to put his own man in the key position, thereby directing pro-immigration policies, financial and economic policies in the EU, according to his own interests. This is completely unacceptable! The Hungarian government will do everything possible to prevent it,” tweeted the Hungarian official on Sunday.
Timmermans himself, arriving at the PES pre-Summit meeting in Brussels, was very cautious, avoiding to confirm he has secured the support of enough member states of the European Council table. “I don’t know, I am the candidate Socialists and we will see what the leaders will decide, if they decide anything tonight.” On the lack of women’ names on the EU top jobs discussion, Timmermans added that PES is “very much for women” candidates. But will they decide tonight? “I don’t know, it could be,” said a rather laconic Timmermans in his English doorstep to journalists.
As for the rest of the positions, the current scenario that still holds, puts Timmermans in the Berlaymont, the outgoing liberal Belgian prime minister Charles Michel at the European Council, and Manfred Weber as a president of the European Parliament. The Vice Presidency and Foreign policy chief (HRVP) position, currently occupied by Italy’s Federica Mogherini, would go to Bulgaria, with either current Commissioner holding the Digital portfolio, Mariya Gabriel, or the World Bank CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, heading back to Brussels.
Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, is for the moment out of the race, as the emphasis still remains on the spitzen candidates put forward ahead of the European elections. Vestager was part of ALDE’s lead team of 7 people, and is by many EU leaders not considered a viable candidate as long as the process is being followed. Vestager stands a chance if the process is abandoned – but at that moment, the playing field is open to any and all candidates – including political heavyweights from the EPP family.