European leaders meet in Brussels to distribute positions of responsibility. Here are the candidates in the running

European leaders meet in Brussels to distribute positions of responsibility. Here are the candidates in the running
European leaders meet in Brussels to distribute positions of responsibility. Here are the candidates in the running

The delicate distribution of positions of responsibility is the next chapter after the elections to the European Parliament.

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The complicated game of post-election horse-trading will be put to the test on Monday, when European Union leaders meet in Brussels to discuss, and even award, the bloc’s most important posts.

During this informal summit, the 27 heads of state and government will discuss the attribution of the positions of President of the European Commission, President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

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Negotiations are traditionally a delicate juggling exercise: the distribution of high-level positions must take into account political affiliations, geographic origins and gender parity to ensure the greatest possible support for all participants.

In 2019, the selection was made after several days of struggle, including an all-night marathon that left the leaders visibly exhausted.

This time, Brussels might have it easier.

In the aftermath of the election, consensus emerged more quickly than many expected: Ursula von der Leyen for the Commission (renewal), Antonio Costa for the Council (replacing Charles Michel) and Kaja Kallas for the High Representative (position currently occupied by Josep Borrell).

“This is the direction taken,” said a diplomat on condition of anonymity. “There is a clear interest in quickly achieving clarity and predictability.”

Another diplomat suggested that the speed with which the package was put together was mainly due to the lack of credible alternatives from the parties.

Although hopes for a quick resolution are high, the final deal may not be sealed at Monday’s dinner and may be pushed back to the official summit on June 27.

Here’s how things look.

European Commission: Ursula von der Leyen

Since announcing her candidacy for re-election in February, Ursula von der Leyen is considered the undisputed favorite for the European Commission. The 65-year-old German has led the executive through two successive crises over the past five years, while ensuring that legislative activity retains its initial ambition.

Its highly centralized working method, its large-scale Green Deal, its immediate reaction to farmers’ protests and, above all, its initial response to the war between Israel and Hamas, where she was photographed shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were seen as obstacles on the path to a second term.

But the landslide victory of his center-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the June elections, with 190 seats, swept aside those concerns. Ms Von der Leyen has already started negotiations with the Socialists and Liberals to set up a centrist coalition for the next five years, without formally involving Giorgia Meloni’s peers (hard right).

Ms Von der Leyen, a sitting member of the European Council, will attend Monday’s summit, butwill recuse himselfas soon as discussions on senior positions begin. If she gets the blessing of heads of state and government, she will then face scrutiny in the European Parliament, where she will need the support of a majority of newly elected MEPs (361 votes) to get the job.

Before the elections, Brussels was in the grip of to speculation on possible alternatives to Mrs von der Leyen. Other EPP leaders like the Croatian Andrej Plenkovićthe Romanian Klaus Iohannis and the Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis were mentioned, as well as Roberta Metsolathe current President of the European Parliament.

Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is another candidate who has made headlines. But this proposal, widely attributed to French officials as a ploy to extract concessions from Ms. von der Leyen, has always been far-fetched: Draghi is not affiliated with any political party and his appointment would completely disrupt the game of negotiations.

European Council : Antonio Costa

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) came second in the European elections, with 136 seats. But this result does not undermine their ambitions.

The center-left family has set its sights on the presidency of the European Council, a position lacking legislative powers, but which takes on particular importance in times of crisis, when leaders meet urgently to make crucial decisions.

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The current incumbent is Charles Michel, a Belgian liberal, who cannot be re-elected after serving two consecutive two-and-a-half year terms. Mr. Michel’s leadership has sowed discord: his failed attempt of present yourself as a candidate in this year’s European elections backfired and highlighted the dangers of appointing someone relatively young (and ambitious) to head the European Council.

The socialists sensed an opening and proposed the name of a veteran: Antonio Costathe 62-year-old politician who served as Prime Minister of Portugal between 2015 and 2024. During his tenure, Mr. Costa was widely appreciated by his fellow leaders for his constructive attitude and approachable nature.

But his stay in power was cut short in November 2023, whenhe quitafter several members of his cabinet were accused of corruption and influence peddling in the concession of lithium mines, green hydrogen and data center projects. Mr. Costa is suspected of having favored some of these irregular transactions.

Shortly after his resignation, prosecutors admitted to confusing the name of António Costa with that of the Minister of Economy António Costa Silva in the transcription of the wiretaps. This and other errors undermined the legal case, giving the impression to diplomats in Brussels that Mr. Costa’s name will ultimately be cleared.

If EU leaders have doubts, a socialist alternative could be Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, but she has denied interest in a top job. Mario Draghi has also been approached for the Council, where his notoriety would be an asset.

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High representative: Kaja Kallas

The liberal Renew Europe family, which fell from 102 to 80 seats in the European elections, also wants to secure a top position, despite its disappointing results.

The socialists concentrate on the Council, leaving the liberals with the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This position has gained importance as the European Union faces global crises, but its effectiveness remains limited by the principle of unanimity.

The current incumbent is Josep Borrell, a staunch socialist who has often frustrated diplomats by deviating from the scriptand expressing personal views that are not shared by the 27.

Geography will be the key factor in choosing his successor. As the Commission and the Council are directed towards Western Europe and Southern Europe respectively, the High Representative should be entrusted to a representative from Eastern Europe.

The dual criteria of liberal Europe and Eastern Europe significantly narrows the list of candidates and places Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas at the forefront. Over the past two years, Ms. Kallas has been who became one of the leading voices in the EU’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, urging the Union to adopt tougher sanctions against the Kremlin and castigating Western allies who do not deliver the munitions they promised to kyiv.

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Its policies were once seen as too harsh and too Baltic-centric, but the brutal reality of war changed the debate in his favor. She is now a serious candidate for the post of head of EU foreign policy. If nominated, she will have to prove that she can also speak convincingly about other regions, such as Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

“She is not a red line for anyone,” said one diplomat. The position of High Representative is largely determined by the mandate given by Member States.

Another liberal candidate is the Belgian Alexander De Croo, who recentlyresigned as prime ministerbut his Western European origins could work against him. Radosław Sikorski, a former MEP who now serves as Poland’s foreign minister and is a strong supporter of Ukraine, fits the high representative’s profile. However, he is affiliated with the EPP and his appointment would send the leaders back to the drawing board.

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