Italy’s Meloni uneasy as EU reaches deal on top positions

Italy’s Meloni uneasy as EU reaches deal on top positions

European Commission President and European People’s Party (EPP) lead candidate for re-election, Ursula von der Leyen, greets delegates before giving a speech at the party congress of the German conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the Estrel Berlin Hotel in Berlin on 8 May 2024.

John MacDougall | AFP | Getty Images

The European Union’s three main political groups have reached an agreement on who will fill the bloc’s top positions, according to three officials who spoke to CNBC. This agreement has caused some dissatisfaction among some legislators in Europe.

The officials, speaking anonymously due to the sensitive nature of the discussions, said these appointments have yet to be formally confirmed.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will serve a second five-year term under an agreement reached on Tuesday by EU leaders from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Socialists and Liberals, officials told the CNBC.

Under the same agreement, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will be appointed head of the Union’s diplomacy, while former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa will assume the presidency of the European Council, the institution that brings together heads of state from across the country. ‘EU.

The Commission president oversees the EU’s executive arm, regulates the world’s largest single market, proposes new laws and sets the bloc’s political agenda for the next five years.

The President of the European Council leads the overall direction and political priorities of the EU, while the chief diplomat deals with foreign policy and international relations.

“There is an understanding between the three main parties,” one of the EU officials told CNBC.

The trio of von der Leyen, Kallas and Costa was agreed by six EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to the sources. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Poland’s Donald Tusk represented the EPP, while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez supported Scholz for the Socialists and outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte joined Macron on behalf of Renew.

The appointments meet EU requirements for geographical balance and are expected to be formally approved by current heads of state at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday. They will then be put to the vote of the European Parliament at a later date.

Critics

Some leaders are expected to express their disapproval of the negotiation process.

“The deal that the EPP has made with the left and the liberals goes against everything the EU is based on,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a post on social media platform X on Tuesday. Hungary is set to take over the rotating presidency of the European Council next month.

“Instead of inclusion, it sows the seed of division. Senior EU officials should represent all member states, not just the left and liberals!” she added.

Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also criticized the exclusion of her party, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), from the talks, despite their strong performance in this month’s European Parliament elections.

“I don’t think citizens’ votes in the European elections are currently taken into account in negotiations for top EU positions,” Meloni said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

While von der Leyen’s EPP secured 189 seats in the 720-member assembly, its centrist allies lost ground amid record gains from the right, including Meloni’s ECR.

Another EU official, who also spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the discussions, told CNBC last week that Meloni “seems to feel that because she is one of the winners of the election, she should be in the main mix and she is not.”

One of CNBC’s sources familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday that the Italian prime minister “wants to be constructive,” suggesting that Meloni could still approve the three appointments.

Italy’s involvement could position her favorably to secure a strong portfolio within the European Commission. Von der Leyen will choose her new team in the weeks following her confirmation, and Meloni could push for significant roles in areas such as industrial strategy, economics or competition.

The new European Commission will take office in November, while the new Presidency of the European Council will begin on 1 December.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the EU is the world’s largest single market.