The focus is on contenders for the “big three” EU jobs but foreign and security policy will be just as crucial in the years aheadby Sarah Raine / June 26, 2019 / Leave a comment
Negotiations between EU leaders for the next “package deal” of EU top jobs are formally underway. In the margins of the G20 meeting in Tokyo this Friday, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel will engage in another round of informal debate before a special Council meeting of the EU this Sunday, where a final deal is meant to be agreed.
Discussions on the identities of the next Presidents of the EU Commission, Council, and European Central Bank are taking centre stage. Agreement on the EU’s next top diplomat, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (and Vice President of the Commission), is viewed as a fourth order concern; a consolation prize to be given out to the grouping/region/gender overlooked in the other appointments. This is misguided. For leaders who, only days ago, adopted a new EU Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024 that declares their intent to promote Europe’s interests and values in the world through more assertive, effective, and coordinated action, it is also self-defeating.
Since the position’s creation in 2009, all EU HR/VPs have come from the centre-left. (This is due to an informal understanding that sees the largest party group in parliament take the Commission job and the second largest the EU HR/VP job). Yet despite this strong clue, predicting the identity of the next incumbent has never been easy; in 2014 few foresaw the rapid promotion of Federica Mogherini, just nine months into her job serving as Italy’s youngest ever Foreign Minister. This time around arguable front runner, former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, is still pushing his case to become the new Commission President. Should this bid fail, Timmermans could still be left with nothing. His work in the last Commission, in particular on the rule of law brief, would make him a controversial pick with some central and eastern European member states.
But whatever the identity of the next EU HR/VP, the pressures of Europe’s deteriorating security environment require their urgent attention. Amongst other priorities, they will have to work to shore up the waning credibility of the EU’s enlargement policies, in particular in the Western Balkans. They will need to develop the concept of European “strategic autonomy” within the context of increasingly strained transatlantic relations, at least until the…