Von der Leyen nominated to stay on in top EU job

By Bethany Bell, BBC News

EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Ursula von der Leyen and Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron (right) was among the EU leaders who reached a consensus to nominate Ursula von der Leyen (left) for a second term

EU leaders have nominated current European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen for a second five-year term in the bloc’s top job at a summit in Brussels.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was picked as the EU’s next foreign affairs chief and former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa was chosen as the next chairman of EU summits.

All three candidates are from centrist, pro-EU factions.

The European Parliament is due to vote on the nominations for Ms von der Leyen and Ms Kallas.

Ms von der Leyen is from Germany’s center-right, Mr Costa is a socialist, and Ms Kallas a liberal.

The leadership package represents continuity for the EU at a time of geopolitical uncertainty. It comes despite a surge in support for hard-right parties in the European Parliament elections earlier this month.

But there has been resistance from Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni.

Before the summit, she said the plans ignored the successes of hard-right parties like her own in the recent elections for the European Parliament.

Ms Meloni has worked on cultivating a constructive relationship with the EU political mainstream, but she abstained from the vote for Ms von der Leyen and voted against Mr. Costa and Ms. Kallas.

Ms Meloni, who heads the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) bloc in the European Parliament, was notably not included in talks on the nominations despite the fact that the ECR became the third largest group in the parliament following the European elections.

Addressing the Italian parliament on Wednesday, she said angrily that European voters had asked the EU to “take a different path to the one it has travelled on so far”.

Without naming names, she criticised “those who argue that citizens are not mature enough to take certain decisions, and [who believe] that oligarchy is essentially the only acceptable form of democracy”.

Von der Leyen nominated to stay on in top EU job

Approval from the European Parliament could be a trickier challenge.

Ms von der Leyen needs 361 votes in order to be confirmed for a second term. Theoretically, support from the centre-right European People’s Party, liberals and social democrats would give her enough support. But it is a tight margin.

Diplomats say Ms von der Leyen may seek to win Ms Meloni’s backing by giving Italy a powerful post in the commission.

“I would plain and simply like to express my gratitude to the leaders who endorsed my nomination for second mandate as president of the European Commission,” said Ms von der Leyen.

If she is approved by the European Parliament, one of her main tasks will be to see how Brussels can keep supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia – something that could be complicated if Donald Trump wins November’s presidential election in the US.

Reuters Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has been nominated as the EU’s next foreign affairs chief

Ms Kallas is also a strong supporter of Ukraine and a hawkish critic of the Kremlin and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow put her on a list of wanted criminals after her government removed Soviet-era war monuments.

Some critics have expressed concern that her uncompromising stance could be a hindrance in her new role as the EU’s top diplomat – both externally and within the bloc itself.

Ms Kallas said she was “really honoured by the support” and described the role as an “enormous responsibility”.

“My aim is definitely to work for European unity, protect European interests.”

Mr Costa praised Ms Kallas and Ms von der Leyen, saying: “I’m sure our collaboration will be very successful to serve Europe and European citizens.”

“Europe and the world are facing challenging moments, yes,” he said after his nomination.

“But the European Union has demonstrated its resilience in the past, always finding strengths in the unity, and building unity between member states will be my main priority when I take up my position in December focused on putting on track the strategic agenda which European Council has approved today.”

Mr Costa, who resigned as prime minister last year, will replace Belgium’s former Prime Minister Charles Michel. Ms Kallas will take over from Spain’s Josep Borrell.

Reuters Former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa
Former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has been chosen as the next chairman of EU summits

Europe Ursula von der Leyen European Union

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