EU leaders agree on top bloc positions

2019-07-04 10:12:14China Daily/Agencies Editor : Mo Hong'e ECNS App Download

Lagarde, von der Leyen make for 'perfect gender balance' in institutions, Tusk says

After three days of haggling during a crisis summit, European Union leaders agreed on a deal for four of the five top jobs of the bloc by nominating Christine Lagarde, managing director of International Monetary Fund, as head of the European Central Bank and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will replace Donald Tusk as the new president of the European Council, and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has been nominated as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Except for Michel, all other three nominees need to be approved by the new European Parliament, which convened on Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, before the agreement was announced in the evening.

The nominees need approval by an absolute majority from the 751 members of the European Parliament.

On Wednesday, David-Maria Sassoli, an Italian politician, journalist and member of the Democratic Party, was elected president of the European Parliament. He won 345 votes in the second round of balloting, the most compared to contenders Czech politician Jan Zahradil, who won 160 votes, and German politician Ska Keller, who got 119 votes.

"The European Council has agreed on the future leadership of the EU institutions," Tusk, who had been brokering among the EU leaders since the late May elections, said on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

In his formal remarks, Tusk tried to calm the frustrations many had in the previous three days by saying that leadership decisions five years ago had taken three months and faced opposition. "This year it was three days and nobody was against," he said.

Tusk also praised the "perfect gender balance" of two men and two women. "After all, Europe is a woman. I think that it was worth waiting for such an outcome," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "It is important that we were able to decide with great unity today, and that is important because it's about our future ability to work."

Tusk said that Merkel supported the whole package even when Germany abstained on the Commission presidency decision due to some conflicts in the government coalition.

"It won't be easy in parliament," said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will step down on Oct 31.

If approved by the European Parliament, Lagarde, 63, and von der Leyen, 60, would be the first women to lead the European Central Bank and European Commission, respectively.

Lagarde, a French lawyer and politician who has led the IMF since 2011, said she was honored to have been nominated for the ECB presidency.

"To be appointed President of #EUCO is a great responsibility and a task I will fulfill with commitment. A united #Europe with respect for national diversity is my objective," Belgium's Michel said in his tweet.

Von der Leyen belongs to the center-right European People's Party, or EPP, the largest political bloc in the European Parliament. She came into the running after Frans Timmermans, a top candidate to replace Juncker in the previous days, met strong opposition from some EU leaders, especially from Eastern Europe.

Timmermans is the current first vice-president of the European Commission and a lead candidate from the center-left Socialists and Democrats, or S&D.

Von der Leyen's nomination was supported by French President Emmanuel Macron who had led the charge to oppose Manfred Weber, EPP's lead candidate. Under the rule five years ago, the lead candidate from the party that won the most seats in the parliament was expected to take the top job at the European Commission, regarded as the most important post in all EU institutions.

Macron said that the nominations were "positive and consensual" and offered a fresh start for the bloc. "This accord is the fruit of a deep Franco-German entente," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

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