EU finally fills top posts, naming Lagarde and von der Leyen

Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen - Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

After three days of contentious European Union summit meetings, Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund, was named as the new head of the European Central Bank on Tuesday, while German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was named as the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch.

These two names also paved the way for nominations for three other top jobs. Socialist Josep Borrell, a Catalan and Spain’s acting foreign minister, was nominated as the next EU foreign affairs head.

Belgian caretaker prime minister, Charles Michel, was named as European Council president, a role which includes chairing European summits and working diplomatically with all 28 member states.

Von der Leyen and the other nominees must be confirmed by the European Parliament, while Lagarde will be reviewed by the ECB, European Parliament, and the European Council heads of state and government.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel expressed relief that the deals were finally made. “Done!” he tweeted.

The long and stressful negotiations betrayed major rifts within the regional bloc. The parliamentary elections in May showed that no traditional bloc had won an outright majority, while far-right and far-left groups grew in size and influence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had reportedly agreed with President Emmanuel Macron to nominate former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans as Commission president, but Italy, Poland and other eastern European countries refused to back him.

The compromise sees Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, a Danish politician, as candidates for von der Leyden’s deputies in the next Commission, due to sit for the first time on 1 November.

The last major EU role, the European Parliament president, will be selected by MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday. Two suggested candidates are Sergei Stanishev, a Bulgarian socialist politician, and German conservative MEP Manfred Weber.

Source: RFI