Updated on June 20, 2019, 12:48 pm
The European Union is looking for new Brussels peaks at the summit on this Thursday – and of course Germany and France are in the crossroads. But at least one point is agreed.
As a relationship status for Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron probably fits best: It is complicated. On several occasions, the Chancellor and the French President have been apart in important points, be it the Brexit or the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.
Now, Germany and France are also arguing on the open stage at the Postenschacher in the European Union.
Shortly after the European elections in late May, the two clashed. Merkel campaigned bravely for her CSU colleague Manfred Weber as the next president of the EU Commission, while Macron made against the German mood.
Merkel vs. Macron: Who goes down?
At the EU summit this Thursday, the game goes into the next round. Who will win the points? Or does one end up at the bottom?
It is more likely that the much-vaunted Franco-German engine will start again and that the often rumbling EU consensus machine will ultimately give birth to a compromise.
So it was said on Wednesday from the Paris headquarters Élyséepalast: "In these debates nothing will be done without a Franco-German agreement." On the German side one sees the similar. It seeks a decision by consensus, said German government officials.
That sounds conciliatory, but does not say anything about how the dispute over the new leadership of the EU should really be settled. EU officials stressed Wednesday that nothing has been decided yet. "All options are still on the table," said a senior EU official.
Until the last minute, head of the council, Donald Tusk, conducts talks in "breathtaking" timing and expects considerable momentum.
The starting position is complicated
The starting position is extremely complicated. One point: the big parties in the European Parliament insist that only one of their top candidates can become head of the European Commission.
Only they had presented themselves to the citizens in the election campaign with their programs, voters had voted for them, and only that was democratic, argue Social and Christian Democrats.
Strictly speaking, only Weber and the social democrat Frans Timmermans would be called into question, whereby Weber sees himself as a favorite because his European People's Party, despite losses, is the strongest parliamentary group in the European Parliament. The Danish EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager applies for the Liberals, although she was not the sole top candidate.
However, the Council of Heads of State and Government, which has the right to submit proposals for the Commission's post, does not recognize the so-called "top candidate" principle anyway. There is no automatism, he stated several times.
One of the strictest opponents is Macron, who considers the old party structure obsolete and blows it up with his move La République En Marche.
It is not possible to make a nomination of a political family to all other candidates, it was said from Macron environment. A consensus had to be found in the European Council so that all countries felt represented. That applies not only to the Commission Presidency, but also to further EU top costs.
This is the second point that makes matters very confusing: the posts of Council leader Tusk, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, EU parliamentary president Antonio Tajani and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will also be filled. And for all posts together, there should be a balanced package of personnel: between men and women, political parties and European regions.
On one point, there is unity between Paris and Berlin
Externally, little has changed in this mixed situation in the past three weeks. None of the known candidates has a majority in the Council or in Parliament, and the parties continue to argue passionately about the procedure.
However, just before the summit, initiates suddenly spoke of movement, of a second phase, of possible packages. Tusk himself raised expectations. "I hope we can decide on Thursday," he wrote on Twitter.
In Paris, it was dampened, it was "not sure" that already decided at the summit. First, names should be "tested", and if no majority for candidates becomes clear, one should consider alternatives. If necessary, there will just be a special summit.
In that point, at least, Berlin reigned with unity. "If you do not come to an outcome, then the world will not go down," said German government officials. However, until the inaugural session of the EU Parliament on 2 July, a solution was needed. (Dpa / jwo)
The European Union is looking for a new leadership – and the candidate carousel is gaining momentum. First, it is about the successor of the Luxembourgish Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. Some candidates have even shaken hands. (Dpa / ank)
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