(Fixes typo in headline)
* Leaders likely to pick foreign policy chief
* Key posts like economics commissioner to be decided later
* Ukraine sanctions to be addressed, no tough steps seen
By John O'Donnell and Paul Taylor
BRUSSELS, July 16 European Union leaders meet on
Wednesday to pick the bloc's new foreign policy chief after
choosing Jean-Claude Juncker to head the executive European
Commission, but it may take some weeks before other top EU jobs
are finally carved up.
The nominations, including other Commission posts as well as
the president of the European Council of EU leaders, will shape
Europe's response to challenges from the crisis in Ukraine to a
stagnant economy and Britain's wavering membership of the bloc.
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, 41, is
front-runner for the foreign policy post, although Poland and
Baltic states have misgivings about her suitability, seeing her
as inexperienced and too soft on Russia in the Ukraine crisis.
The leaders are also likely to discuss further penalties
against Russia for its role in Ukraine, although diplomats
cautioned that any such measures were unlikely to extend to full
With Germany and others reluctant to go further, action may
mostly involve extending asset freezes and visa bans to more
Ukrainian rebels and Russians deemed responsible for
destablising eastern Ukraine.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Bulgaria's
Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for development, are
possible alternatives as foreign policy chief if Mogherini is
blocked. Some west Europeans see Oxford-educated Sikorski, a
respected strategic thinker, as too belligerent toward Moscow.
While some countries want to finalise the selection in a
package deal on Wednesday, officials cautioned that more talks
lay ahead over jobs that may include an influential permanent
head of the group of euro zone finance ministers.
"I wouldn't expect a package deal," said one official with
knowledge of the talks. "I think they will only agree on the
high representative (foreign affairs), which is a crucial part
of the puzzle. The aim is to finalise by the end of July."
The jobs selection is delicate given the wide disparity of
views across the 28 countries in the European Union, an uneasy
alliance spanning Britain, where eurosceptics want to quit the
bloc, to Greece, which narrowly avoided leaving.
Other key posts at the European Commission, which proposes
and enforces laws for 500 million Europeans, include the
commissioners in charge of economic affairs, competition, trade,
the internal market and energy policy.
Juncker, who won a broad investiture vote in the European
Parliament on Tuesday, will attend the summit as president-elect
before composing his team in early August from candidates put
forward by national governments.
Politics as well as skills and experience will determine his
picks, which have to balance gender, party affiliation, small
and large countries, and north, south, east and western Europe.
Mogherini, supported strongly by Italian Prime Minister
Matteo Renzi, is a Socialist and a woman - factors which may
play to her advantage. Juncker is seeking to put more women in
top jobs to improve on the current Commission's count of nine.
Britain make face an uphill struggle to secure an important
position for its nominee, little known lawmaker Jonathan Hill,
who backs Prime Minister David Cameron's strategy of trying to
renegotiate London's EU membership terms before a promised 2017
referendum on whether to stay in the bloc.
Cameron, who unsuccessfully fought Juncker's appointment,
named more hardline Eurosceptics to his cabinet in a reshuffle
on Tuesday, including new foreign minister Philip Hammond. Hill
appeared to have been dispatched to Brussels from the House of
Lords largely to avoid a parliamentary by-election.
Britain may be able to claim a partial victory if Danish
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, 47, a social democrat
with good ties to Cameron, became the next president of the
European Council, chairing the summit meetings of leaders.
But while she has broad support, France may oppose her
appointment because she is not from a euro zone country.
(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Paul Taylor
and Ralph Boulton)