Tusk Warns France and Germany Against Monopolizing EU's Top Jobs

(Bloomberg) -- European Council President Donald Tusk warned that the EU’s biggest powers shouldn’t be tempted to make a grab for all the top jobs as the bloc prepares to appoint a new leadership team.

There has to be a "geographical balance as well as a demographic balance so that both large and small countries are represented in the highest positions of the European Union," Tusk, a Pole, told reporters after a summit Thursday. The EU has to be "brave enough to protect smaller and weaker and newer countries," he added.

With Tusk’s replacement as head of the leaders’ council as well as new presidents of the Commission and the European Central Bank to be named later this year, EU members staked out their initial positions at the gathering in Sibiu, Romania. Tusk called another summit for May 28 -- two days after the elections for the EU parliament -- to discuss the appointments in depth.

France’s Emmanuel Macron led opposition to the so-called spitzenkandidat approach that would let the winner of this month’s EU parliamentary elections name the commission chief. That would make either Manfred Weber, a German conservative, or Frans Timmermans, a social democrat from the Netherlands, the likely successor to Jean-Claude Juncker.

Democratic Process

Macron’s calls to throw open the field to a wider range of candidates won support from Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Slovenia and Luxembourg. Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said leaders risked undermining the commission’s legitimacy if they override the Parliament.

“It will be hard to tell voters first that there will be elections and then a few of the elite leaders will later say: oh well, let the people vote, but we will decide that in a small circle among ourselves,” Kurz said. “I would not view this as being democratic.”

The tussle over the system for choosing the commission chief is a prelude to the real battle to determine who steers the 27-nation bloc through the aftermath of Brexit with populists across the continent seeking to undermine the European project. German officials have signaled that they want one of the top jobs this time around, after consistently stepping aside in the past, while Michel Barnier, the French official who led the EU’s Brexit negotiating team, is also considered a frontrunner.

"I am not hung up on nationality," Macron said. “What matters is competence , to have the best candidates."

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