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EU Leaders Enter the Third Day of the Summit to Carve Out A Place of Choice

BRUSSELS – European Union leaders met Tuesday for a third consecutive day of standoff over key positions in the bloc of 28 countries, without it being expected that fundamental differences will be reduced, Reuters reported Tuesday.
In an increasingly fragmented bloc, leaders are trying to strike a balance between political affiliations, divergent interests of different regions, and the glaring shortage of women in the upper echelons.
Some leaders slumbered on Monday in the early hours of the negotiations that led to Italy and the former communist states of the East, preventing the Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans from taking up the most visible position, that of president of the European executive, and the European Commission.
“Everything is in the air,” said an EU diplomat. “Everything is possible, so we came back to square one.”
The Presidency of the Commission, currently headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, is the top-choice position among the five at stake who will shape policy in all areas, from trade to climate, to migration for the largest economic bloc in the world and its 500 million inhabitants.
On Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters: “We are just asking that Mr. Timmermans is not be acceptable.”
His Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, expected “very difficult” discussions.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, however, said a series of meetings between EU leaders since Monday afternoon should be enough to reach an agreement.
The puzzle that collapsed on Monday would also have allowed Bulgaria, Kristalina Georgieva, to join the new EU leadership team in Brussels, whose mandate will last five years.
It is very unusual for a summit to take place in a third day and this round is already the third attempt to decide jobs.
The inability to reach consensus reinforces criticisms of nationalists opposed to the establishment and undermines the EU’s image in the face of multiple external challenges, such as the United States, Russia, Iran and China.
In addition to the Commission, which monitors state budgets and proposes new laws, the other posts to be filled later this year include the Presidents of the European Parliament and the European Central Bank, as well as the top diplomat in Brussels.
The fifth position is the head of the European Council, responsible for reaching compromises between the Member States.
European leaders must reach an agreement on Tuesday, otherwise they risk being overtaken by the new European Parliament, which holds an inaugural session after a continental election in May. He must choose his new president on Wednesday and could act independently, unless agreed by 28 leaders.
The approval of the new EU assembly is required for the Commission President appointed by national leaders.
While Timmermans had enough support to be appointed under EU rules, opposition from Italy, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could poison the decision future decision.
Eastern nationalist governments blame Timmermans for challenging them for restrictions on the independence of judges, the media, academics and non-governmental groups.
Italy faces imminent action on the part of the Commission.
The Socialist candidate was also opposed by the center-right national leaders who claimed the Commission’s leading role after their parties – under a coordinating group called the European People’s Party (EPP) – took the lead, although weakened in the parliamentary vote.
Leaders came out frustrated Monday night talks, French President Emmanuel Macron calling them a failure and saying that there could be no further enlargement of the EU without reforms for a smoother operation.
Her initial agreement with Angela Merkel to endorse Timmermans collapsed, as the weakened German chancellor failed to convince her center-right peers.
German Manfred Weber, of Merkel, was rejected earlier in the process.
Diplomats and officials said Merkel still insisted that the next chief executive of the EU – like Mr Weber – be a main candidate proposed by the political groups in the European Parliament.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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