EU Leaders Delay Top-Jobs Deal Before Summit Next Week

(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders postponed a deal on how to divide the bloc’s top jobs — opening the door to further bargaining before a summit next week.

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Meeting in Brussels, leaders from the 27 member-states had been expected to give political backing to Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as European Commission president, ex-Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa as European Council head and Estonian PM Kaja Kallas as the EU’s top diplomat.

After several hours of informal talks on Monday, however, the deal didn’t come together. Discussions will now continue before a formal gathering on June 27-28, with those three candidates remaining the front-runners.

Charles Michel, who currently heads the European Council, said leaders exchanged views in what was an “important element” of the decision-making process.

“It was absolutely clear from the beginning that the purpose today was not to make a decision,” he told reporters after the meeting. “I think it’s a collective duty to make a decision by the end of June.”

Dragging out the negotiations, though, feeds uncertainty over the bloc’s leadership at a time when its two biggest countries, Germany and France, also have an uneasy grip on power at home.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saw their parties trounced in European Parliament elections this month, with the outcome leading Macron to call snap parliamentary elections to begin at the end of June.

France’s political upheaval is causing concern in some EU capitals that initiatives like joint military spending and a fresh push to support Ukraine could fall by the wayside.

In advance of Monday’s talks, several leaders urged a swift accord on the jobs. “With all the challenges we have ahead of us, I think it’s important we take a decision as quickly as possible,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters.

Macron said later that officials “aren’t that far” from a deal. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while EU decision-making can always go into a different direction, the current process isn’t like past ones “when it was a big tombola and everything was up for grabs.”

“That’s not the case here,” he said. “It seems to be much more clear.”

Any gridlock over the appointments could be costly for the EU, which is wrestling with how to maintain support for Ukraine, finance a ramp-up of defense spending and preparing for the possibility of another Donald Trump presidency in the US.

It’s also in the throes of a new trade battle with China, which stepped up tensions on Monday by launching an anti-dumping probe on pork imports from the EU.

The postings, typically doled out on the basis of the outcome of the European Parliament elections and to balance geographical representation, will also need approval by EU lawmakers.

--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak, Andrea Palasciano, Jan Bratanic, Ania Nussbaum, Michael Nienaber and Katharina Rosskopf.

(Updates with comments from Rutte starting in 10th paragraph.)

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