Joseph Muscat in no rush to leave after missing out on European Council job

The Prime Minister had been on one of two final lists outlining who should be nominated for the EU’s top jobs

Joseph Muscat will stay put for the time being (Photo: EU)
Joseph Muscat will stay put for the time being (Photo: EU)

Joseph Muscat will have no rush to leave his job in Castille after his hopes for a top EU job were dashed on the third day of protracted negotiations in Brussels.

The Prime Minister harboured the ambition to become the next president of the European Council instead of Donald Tusk and made it to one of two final lists.

European leaders eventually coalesced around the second option pushed by Germany.

Sources close to the Prime Minister told MaltaToday the development means that Muscat has no deadline on his head, if he still opts to step down.

“Had he been nominated council president he would have had to leave by October. Joseph [Muscat] is now not bound by any date and may stay on until the next general election,” the sources said.

Muscat had promised to leave the helm of the Labour Party before the next general election but has been facing pressure to stay on by party supporters.

Sources in Brussels said Muscat had been indicated as president of the European Council in a list that would have seen the conservative Michel Barnier being nominated European Commission president and liberal Margaret Vestager for foreign affairs.

However, the second list backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel gained more traction throughout the day with support from the Visegrad countries.

This list proposed conservative Ursula van der Leyen for the commission post and liberal Charles Michel for the council presidency and socialist Josep Borrell for foreign affairs.

Sources said the first list containing Muscat’s name had the support of France. However, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to have consented to Merkel’s nominee for commission president while ensuring that compatriot Christine Lagarde be installed as chief of the European Central Bank.

Muscat’s remote chances were also scuppered by the fact that the socialists settled for the least attractive post of the top jobs – EU foreign minister – a repeat of what happened five years ago.

The socialists may also take the presidency of the European Parliament, although this still has to be determined given the council’s rejection of the Spitzenkandidat system, which could put it on collision course with MEPs.