EU leaders adjourn summit to break jobs stalemate

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Sleep-deprived European Union (EU) leaders adjourned marathon talks until today amid stalemate over filling the bloc’s top jobs in the wake of May elections that have fragmented the EU political landscape.

The 28 EU leaders are trying to agree on who will steer the bloc over the coming years through the looming challenges of Brexit and the rise of populist parties in Europe.

Despite 18 hours of talks since last Sunday, they needed more time to debate new proposals to overcome opposition to a Franco-German compromise on who will be the new chief of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

European Council (EUCO) President Donald Tusk “suspends the meeting and reconvenes #EUCO tomorrow at 11h”, tweeted Tusk’s spokesman Preben Aamann.

Summit organiser Tusk had suggested in vain to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel around 8am to drop efforts for now and reconvene in two weeks, a European source told AFP.

“The two replied to him: ‘It’s out of the question. We must absolutely find a deal today’,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

The compromise Merkel and Macron forged on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan last Saturday called for Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans to head the commission, rather than his conservative rival German Manfred Weber.

Weber would instead be put forward for election as speaker of the European Parliament, where he leads the largest political bloc. A liberal candidate would succeed Tusk as President of the European Council of national leaders.

But when Merkel put this to fellow centre-right leaders in the European People’s Party (EPP) several rebelled, and the summit was thrown into crisis as heads of government shuttled between side meetings late into yesterday morning.

Merkel said later yesterday she still “hoped that with good will a compromise will be feasible.”

The EPP is still the biggest bloc in the European Parliament, but no longer the dominant force it was before the May elections.