EU leaders to discuss bloc’s top jobs over dinner in Brussels

Consensus appears to be growing over Ursula von der Leyen’s second term as European Commission president, Roberta Metsola as parliament chief, Antonio Costa as Council president and Kaja Kallas as foreign policy chief

EU leaders will try to reach a political agreement on the bloc's top jobs at an informal meeting in Brussels (Photo: Prime Minister Robert Abela speaks to journalists ahead of the meeting in Brussels)
EU leaders will try to reach a political agreement on the bloc's top jobs at an informal meeting in Brussels (Photo: Prime Minister Robert Abela speaks to journalists ahead of the meeting in Brussels)

Updated at 8pm with Robert Abela and Roberta Metsola comments 

Robert Abela has joined other EU leaders for an informal summit in Brussels today to discuss who will occupy the bloc’s top posts.

In what appears to be the emergence of an early consensus, EU leaders are coalescing around Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as European Commission president, Portugal’s António Costa as European Council president, Malta’s Roberta Metsola as the European Parliament boss and Estonia’s Kaja Kallas as foreign policy chief.

No formal decision will be made tonight and any political agreement will have to be formally approved at the European Council on June 27-28.

Although Brussels has been abuzz with hints of a consensus, pundits do not rule out last minute curve balls.

This is what happened five years ago when Von der Leyen’s name cropped up out of nowhere after France objected to the EPP chief Manfred Weber occupying the post of commission president despite having been the party’s spitzenkandidat.

Even if EU leaders give Von der Leyen the nod, she will still have to be cleared by the European Parliament, where she may struggle to obtain the backing of 361 from 720 MEPs. The coalition of pro-EU groups that elected her last time around – the EPP, S&D and Renew – won almost 400 seats in the European election but party chiefs expect around 10% of MEPs will not vote for her.

Von der Leyen has been trying to court Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, who heads the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists, to secure her support and in the process raising eyebrows among moderates.

Metsola will also have to be confirmed by the parliament. If she does get the nod from MEPs, this will be Metsola’s second consecutive two-and-a-half-year term at the helm of the European Parliament.

In their talks over dinner, EU leaders will be looking at achieving political balance in the four posts – EPP will hold on to the Commission and parliament, while the S&D will have the council presidency and the liberal Renew will occupy the foreign policy post.

Questions will definitely be raised on Costa’s legal woes. The former Portuguese prime minister resigned last year after he was implicated in a corruption probe. He has not been charged but Costa’s name has not yet been cleared, something that may raise eyebrows among some EU leaders.

Kallas, who is currently Estonia’s prime minister, has been one of the leading voices in the EU against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although consensus is growing around her nomination, she may find opposition from countries that are more Russia-friendly such as Hungary and Slovakia.

Principles which govern European institutions must be discussed – Robert Abela  

Addressing journalists in Brussels on Monday evening, the PM said leaders must not only speak about institutional roles, but also the principles which govern European insitutons.

“We must analyse what the people have voted for in these elections. Even in our country a message was sent, and we must listen to that message,” he said.

Abela said the principles of a social Europe, of a Europe which helps in challenging times like in the war in Ukraine and Palestine as well as inflation are still dear to Europeans.

“The principles of justice and good governance need to continue to be of the utmost priority even for Malta,” he said. “We must also ensure the single market does not disadvantage countries on the periphery like ours.”

He said he is hopeful as Malta is a proud European state which is governed by European principles.

“The discussion we will have later today is very important as it will define the Europe we will have in the coming five years. The people of Europe have spoken clearly and we must deliver that message in Brussels,” he said.

European Parliament ‘ready to engage’ – Roberta Metsola

President Roberta Metsola said the European Parliament is ready to engage ahead of informal European leaders’ meeting following last week’s European Parliament elections.

“First of all, democracy is very much alive. It looks like the pro-European forces can continue to cooperate over the next years in what will be a very demanding legislature,” she said.

Addressing journalists ahead of tonight’s meeting in Brussels, President Metsola said that she looks forward to discussing the result of the outcome of the European election with the Heads of State and Government.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola in Brussels
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola in Brussels

The demands and the results of the Parliament must be taken into account for the election of the President of the European Commission, she said. “And I can confirm that a majority of the political groups in the European Parliament support the lead candidate process.”

“We will also be ensuring together with the European Council, in accordance with the Treaty and the inter-institutional cooperation, the smoothest of processes for the election of the next President of the European Commission,” Metsola said.

President Metsola concluded that she looks forward to seeing some good progress so EU institutions can start working hard.