November 11, 2009 / 1:30 AM / 10 years ago

EU calls summit on top jobs, no deal yet on names

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will hold a special summit on November 19 to name a president and foreign policy chief, but diplomats say agreement on the appointments has still not been reached.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is leading consultations among the 27 member states, said on Wednesday the EU government leaders would meet in Brussels over dinner.

The appointments are being made under the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty and are intended to give the bloc more global clout as emerging powers such as China become more influential following the global economic crisis.

“After an introductory round of consultations with his fellow heads of state and government, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has decided to convene an extra informal summit on 19 November,” the EU’s Swedish presidency said.

Reinfeldt has made clear the president of the Council of EU leaders, a new post, is likely to be chosen from among sitting or former heads of government.

Diplomats say there is strong backing for Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as president, signaling they want a relatively low-profile leader.

But French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker are still in the running.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has won support to become EU foreign policy chief but has said he is not available, leaving doubts over who will be given the job.


Filling the jobs has been marred by power struggles among small and large member states and conflicting visions of what role the politicians would play in Brussels.

“There are a few names that have been thrown up in the air (to be president) and we are looking at a majority candidate, not a consensus candidate,” said one EU diplomat, underlining the problems securing unanimous support for one person.

“The consultations are not over ... Hopefully we can avoid major disputes at the summit.”

The EU is calling an extra summit, even though it has a regular summit scheduled on December 10-11, because it wants to speed up the appointments.

A new European Commission, the EU executive, can be installed only when the two jobs are filled. Any delays could cause problems because it would mean the Commission had to operate for a prolonged period on a caretaker basis.

Van Rompuy, 62, has consensus-building skills that could suit Germany and France, the traditional driving forces in the EU. Juncker has strong economic credentials, but France is likely to oppose him.

Blair’s chances are limited by his backing for the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by Britain’s absence from the list of 16 countries that use the euro currency.

With Miliband unlikely to step forward, front-runners for the foreign policy post include former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who is Finnish, and former Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by Mark Trevelyan

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