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EU top jobs deal set to go ahead despite Italian PM’s protests

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The European Council meeting on 27 and 28 June is expected to back a deal that will give Ursula von der Leyen a second term as Commission President. Leaders belonging to the centre-right ((EPP), centre-left (Socialists and Democrats) and liberal (Reform) political groups have asserted their long-standing power to carve-up the EU’s top jobs.

Portugal’s António Costa will become Council President and Estonia’s Kaja Kallas will be the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. So far, so predictable, the only surprise being a falling out over the EPP’s idea that Costa should only serve for two and a half years. That’s now been dropped, though it could be revived in 2027, if the European Parliament picks a candidate from Costa’s Socialists to succeed Roberta Metsola as President of the European Parliament.

It’s a humiliating blow to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who finds herself excluded from the deal-making, despite leading the EU’s third-largest economy and being one of the few heads of government to have emerged from the European elections with her position strengthened. She also seemed to have reached an understanding with von der Leyen, who might well need votes from Meloni’s ECR group to get her reappointment approved by the European Parliament. 

“There are those who argue that citizens are not wise enough to take certain decisions and that oligarchy is the only acceptable form of democracy, but I disagree,” Meloni told the Italian parliament. She was positioning herself as the champion of ‘democracy’, meaning the results of the European Parliament elections, which increased the number of MEPs in the ECR group, to which she belongs. She argued that it’s “surreal” to ignore “the signals from voters”.

But she is also part of the ‘oligarchy’, the European Council, where her protests are likely to turn to deal-making in order to secure a consolation prize for the ECR, and most especially for Italy. In her speech in Rome, she called the EU “an invasive bureaucratic giant”, suggesting that an Italian Commissioner should be appointed to wage war on bureaucracy.

She’ll be hoping her fellow heads of government don’t call he bluff on that one and actually offer Italy the job of Commissioner for paper clips. In reality, Meloni expects at the very least to secure the appointment of an Italian vice-president of the Commission, with a powerful economic role. It would also be a prize for the ECR, of which she is President and that could also help von der Leyen’s cause as she tries to secure the votes she’ll need when her reappointment is put to the European Parliament, probably at its July sitting in Strasbourg.

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