EU Leaders Look to Set Aside Embarrassing Top-Jobs Impasse

Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis (C) arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Tuesday, for the third day of talks over whom to appoint for numerous top jobs in EU institutions. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

European Union leaders gathered yet again Tuesday as they try to overcome an embarrassing deadlock over a series of job nominations to key posts at the bloc for at least the next five years.

In one of the longest EU summits in recent years, the leaders are looking to name a new president of the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, a president of the European Council and a foreign policy chief.

The European Parliament is set to vote Wednesday on its new president, while the new chairman of the European Central Bank could be named later.

The leaders are struggling to show that the EU is still relevant and coherent after the bloc’s two traditional center-right and left powers lost votes in May’s European elections.

But the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, backed by Italy, appeared firmly entrenched in their opposition to former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who is seen by many as the most qualified candidate to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker at the head of the European Commission.

Timmermans is seen by these countries — many of them with anti-migrant governments — as a supporter of a controversial scheme to impose refugee quotas on EU countries. He has also led efforts, backed by the threat of legal action, to improve the rule of law in Poland and Hungary.

“We want somebody on the presidency of the commission which [sic] doesn’t have a negative view on our region. Mr. Timmermans is not acceptable for us. That’s it,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters as he arrived at EU headquarters in Brussels.

“We have a completely different view on migration. He was always behind quotas and so on, so this is a problem for us,” Babis said.

The summit, which started Sunday afternoon, broke down in recriminations on Monday, with leaders taking swipes at each other and criticizing EU Council President Donald Tusk, who is chairing the marathon meeting and whose term ends on Oct 31.

Tusk was already working the phone as he left his car and headed into what could prove another long day at the office.

The challenge is to name a group of new leaders of the EU institutions who respect the 28-nation bloc’s political affiliations, geography — a balance of countries from the north and south, east and west — population size and to have at least two women nominated.


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