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EU jobs carve-up was done by midnight but fall-out will last weeks, months -even years

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The traditional ‘pro-EU’ bloc has maintained its dominance of the European Council, nominating Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as European Commission President and Estonia’s Kaja Kallas to become High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Von der Leyen must now win majority support in the European Parliament and Kallas’ role in the European Commission is also subject to MEPs approval.

The Council is answerable to no-one else for its choice of Portugal’s António Costa as its own President but the idea that he could be replaced after two and a half years has not gone away. None of the choices was unanimous, as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vented her anger at being left out of the deal-making process by abstaining in the vote to approve von der Leyen and voting against Costa and Kallas. 

Another right-wing leader, who’s long used to being in the losing minority on these occasions, is Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. He made his protest somewhat differently. He voted against Ursula von der Leyen but abstained in the votes that gave Kaja Kallas and António Costa their jobs.

Portugal’s Prime Minister, Luís Montenegro, hailed the appointment of his predecessor as a victory for “all Portuguese people”. But he also pointed out that the job of Council President is for an initial two-and-a-half-year term. The possibility remains that the European People’s Party, which hopes to be more strongly represented in the Council by mid-2027, could than seek to replace the socialist Costa with one of their own.

In a post on X, António Costa confirmed his acceptance of the post, taking over from Charles Michel on 1 December. “I will be fully committed to promoting unity between all 27 Member States and focused on putting on track the Strategic Agenda, which … will provide guidance to the European Union for the next five years”, he wrote

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas posted on X that she is “honoured to be nominated as the candidate for High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”, adding that “war in Europe, increasing instability in our neighbourhood and globally are the main challenges for European foreign policy”.

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Both looked forward to working with Ursula von der Leyen but her second term is still not a done deal. She must win a majority in the European Parliament, where she only scraped through five years ago with the support of British MEPs about to have their mandates cancelled as a result of Brexit.

This time, the combined votes of the EPP, the Socialists and the Reform group would in theory be enough. But not all their MEPs will toe the line, leaving von der Leyen having to gain at least some support from further to the right in the ECR group, or from the Greens-or even somehow from both.

The European Council concluded just before midnight but it’s not quite yet glad confident morning for the Commission President.

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