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EU's new leadership team passes first hurdle

Will Denselow in Brussels

Von der Leyen (c), Costa (l) and Kallas (r) hope to take the three top jobs in the European Union /Olivier Hoslet
Von der Leyen (c), Costa (l) and Kallas (r) hope to take the three top jobs in the European Union /Olivier Hoslet

Von der Leyen (c), Costa (l) and Kallas (r) hope to take the three top jobs in the European Union /Olivier Hoslet

European leaders have selected the team they want to run the EU for the next five years. 

Ursula von der Leyen has been given the nod to serve another term as Commission President but she still needs to win the backing of the European Parliament.

"Mission accomplished." That was the message from an upbeat European Council President, Charles Michel.

‌"This is a strong signal to send out, a strong European democratic signal. We took on board the results of the European elections, we looked at the preparatory work, strategic plans and now the institutional procedure will continue," he said.

Ex-Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa will be next European Council President. The 62-year-old stepped down from his role as PM prematurely after becoming embroiled in a corruption probe. Costa has consistently denied wrongdoing and reports suggesting that he might be the victim of mistaken identity has cast uncertainty over the investigation.

Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas meanwhile was chosen to be the EU's top diplomat. In a statement she said her aim will be, "to work on achieving EU unity, protect the EU's interests and values in the changing geopolitical context and build global partnerships."

"I will work with all EU Member States and institutions to keep and strengthen EU unity," she added.

Tensions on the right

Von der Leyen's reappointment to the role of Commission President isn't guaranteed. She still needs to win the support of the European Parliament. That vote is expected in mid-July and she's unlikely to gain support from the right-leaning European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) which is now the third biggest group in the Parliament, and led by Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni.


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While von der Leyen hails from the centre-right European People's Party grouping, Costa is linked to the left-wing Socialists and Kallas from the centrist Renew grouping, which suffered heavy losses compared to the previous election. 

Speaking after the Council meeting Meloni said the nominees picked by the EU's heads of state failed to reflect the surge in support for right-wing candidates seen in the recent European elections.

"I consider it a great mistake, I consider it above all a lack of respect towards the European citizens, towards the vote expressed by those citizens and therefore I decided to respect the indications of the citizens by not supporting this proposal," she said.

‌The centrist coalition, from which the three candidates were drawn, still controls roughly 400 of the 720 seats in the Parliament, enough of a mandate argued German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

"We have seen the populist parties strengthening and getting more power in the European elections. It is a good sign that the overall cooperation of the three party families has not weakened too much and has happened again. And this is also good for Europe," he said.

‌From next week Hungary, which has frequently clashed with Brussels, will take over the European Council's rotating presidency until the end of the year.

‌It's a major test of that cooperation for those at the helm of the EU's major institutions.

EU's new leadership team passes first hurdle

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