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EU top jobs have been decided, what’s next?

Kallas and Von der Leyen still need the endorsement of the European Parliament before being officially appointed.
Kallas and Von der Leyen still need the endorsement of the European Parliament before being officially appointed. Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Marta Iraola Iribarren
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With European leaders agreeing on the three names to fill the EU's top jobs, the wheels have been set in motion for the next five years in the European Union. What comes next?

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In a shorter-than-expected European Council meeting, the leaders of the EU's 27 member states approved the candidates for the bloc's top jobs: Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission, António Costa as president of the European Council, and Kaja Kallas as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.   

The approval was the first step of a mechanism that will start working to tie all loose knots in the composition of the next European Union’s leadership.  

António Costa's election by the Council is final and he will take over from current president Charles Michel on 1 December.  

Kallas and Von der Leyen, however, still need the endorsement of the European Parliament before being officially appointed.  

Former Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will appear before the Parliament's foreign affairs committee, where she will need the support of a majority of members in a vote, scheduled for September, that will confirm her as EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  “It will be my aim to now reach out to MEPs and achieve their support,” she said in an X post after the Council meeting.  

Incumbent Ursula von der Leyen will also face a vote in Parliament, but she must win an absolute majority of the chamber in plenary before being given the green light to resume her position as head of the European Commission.  

The vote is scheduled for the 16-19 July plenary session in Strasbourg, where she will need to win 361 votes of the total of 720 MEPs who make up the newly elected Parliament. The vote will be by secret ballot, making it difficult to gauge the chamber's support in advance. 

However, the leaders of the three largest political groups in the last mandate - European People's Party (EPP), Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and Renew Europe - have already agreed to her appointment, meaning that most of their MEPs will likely vote in favour. To secure the necessary votes, von der Leyen said she would approach delegations and individual MEPs outside this main coalition.   

"I will also work intensively with the national delegations because experience shows that ... within the groups there are different voting patterns," von der Leyen said after the Council’s agreement. 

One possible ally in the vote is the Greens, with 54 MEPs the group has said it is open to negotiations.  

"We think the only way to create a stable pro-European, pro-democracy and pro-Ukraine majority is by the four parties,” said Green co-president Bas Eickhout after the elections earlier this month. He added that the only way to create a stable majority is to include a fourth party in the agreement.  

The group, however, set a clear red line before starting talks and declared that they would not enter into any kind of political pact involving Giorgia Meloni’s ECR group.  

The Socialists also refused to enter into a coalition agreement with any far-right group, whether the ECR or ID. S&D’s president Iratxe García reiterated her position in a meeting with von der Leyen on Wednesday (26 June) where she said she respects the Spitzenkandidat process, under which the party that does best in EU elections can name the leader of the Commission but warned there’s no blank cheque.  

Georgia Meloni's Fratelli d'Italia MEPs could also offer von der Leyen support, but whether they will do so remains an open question. The fact that Meloni abstained in the Council in relation to von der Leyen's appointment - rather than rejecting it outright, as she did for Costa's and Kallas' appointments - suggests the Italian premier has left the door ajar to persuasion.

If Ursula von der Leyen receives the Parliament’s support in July she then will start working on the composition of her next European Commission.  

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While no names are yet definitive, some countries have put their candidates forward for posts. That is the case for France, as President Macron expressed yesterday after the Council meeting that his wish is to reappoint current French Commissioner Thierry Breton.  

Ireland also announced earlier this week its intention to appoint finance minister Michael McGrath to replace Commissioner Mairead McGuinness as the Irish representative in the executive.  

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis was also named by his country for the position and has received support from Manfred Weber, the EPP leader.  

For 2019, von der Leyen asked member states to nominate a man and a woman for the position to ensure she could appoint a gender-balanced commission. So far, no country has done so.    

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The appointments won’t be made until September, once the College of Commissioners is selected every nominated candidate will need the support of the European Parliament to take office officially.  

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