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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Lili Bayer in Brussels

EU heads finish meeting with no agreement on top jobs, Charles Michel says – Europe live

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP

Summary of the day

  • Leaders from the EU’s 27 member countries met for a first, informal discussion after the European elections to discuss how to divide the bloc’s top jobs: European Commission president, European Council president and high representative for foreign affairs.

  • Ahead of the talks, there was a sense that Ursula von der Leyen, the centre-right European People’s party’s lead candidate and the current Commission president, is on track to be selected for a second term.

  • Before the leaders’ dinner, António Costa, a socialist and former longtime Portuguese prime minister, was seen as the frontrunner for the Council job. Kaja Kallas, a liberal and the current prime minister of Estonia, was seen as the top contender for the foreign policy chief job.

  • A number of leaders called for a relatively quick decision. Simon Harris, Ireland’s leader, said “it is important that we bring clarity quickly to these matters.” Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said “it is important for a decision to be made quickly, because we are living in difficult times and it is important to know what the future holds for Europe.”

  • Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, endorsed Kallas for the high representative job. Robert Golob, the Slovenian prime minister, endorsed Costa’s candidacy for European Council president.

  • After hours of talks – first in smaller groups, then at a dinner with all leaders – Charles Michel, the outgoing European Council president, told reporters no agreement had been reached this evening.

  • Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, criticised the discussions, writing on social media that “the will of the European people was ignored today in Brussels.”

  • EU leaders are scheduled to meet for a formal summit in Brussels on June 27-28.


Gitanas Nausėda, the Lithuanian president, said after the talks this evening that the EU “needs strong institutions to implement the idea of ​​a strong, enlarged and competitive Europe.”

European people 'ignored' at summit, Orbán says

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has criticised today’s discussions.

“The will of the European people was ignored today in Brussels,” he said.

“The result of the European election is clear: right-wing parties got stronger, the Left and the liberals lost ground. The EPP, on the other hand, instead of listening to the voters, finally teamed up with the socialists and the liberals: today they made a deal and divided the top jobs of the EU among themselves,” he said.

“We will not give in to this! We will unite the forces of the European right and fight against pro-migration and pro-war bureaucrats,” he added.

No agreement tonight, European Council president says

Charles Michel, the outgoing European Council president, is now speaking to reporters.

He said it was a “good occasion to exchange views” but that “there’s no agreement tonight.”

The political parties, he said, “made proposals” and “we’ll have the occasion in the days to come to work further and to prepare the decisions that we need to make.”

The purpose of today’s talks, he said, was to have an in-depth exchange of views and share concerns, priorities, hopes and expectations, Michel said.

Leaders are set to meet formally for a summit next week.


Dinner finished

The leaders have finished their dinner.

Leaders are still talking.

EU leaders are hashing out who gets the EU’s most senior jobs over a three-course dinner.

On the menu: pissaladière with a twist (a pizza-style flatbread with anchovies); pan-fried pollock with baby artichokes and Mediterranean vegetables, followed by rum baba with mango, passion fruit and strawberries.

We’ll find out later if that makes the talks on top jobs easier to digest.

Andrej Plenković, the Croatian prime minister, has said the centre-right European People’s party “should politically lead” the European Union.

“Busy day,” writes Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

Leaders are now at their dinner discussing the top jobs. Stay tuned.

Leaders' dinner to start

Ahead a delay of nearly three hours, leaders will soon begin their dinner.

They have spent the past hours negotiating in smaller groups.

One European official tells us when asked if the von der Leyen/Costa/Kallas deal will hold: “Those who do want to derail it are so far silent.”

Belgium and Slovakia’s leaders were all smiles at the summit.

The rumour mill at the European Council is buzzing as negotiations continue over top jobs.

One idea floated is that the European People’s party wants to split the European Council job with the socialists into two 2.5 year terms.

But diplomats we asked about this have pointed out that the treaties clearly state the term for the European Council president is 2.5 years and previous presidents have had to be re-elected.

Another senior European diplomat says it is “too early to say” if the Ursula von der Leyen/António Costa/Kaja Kallas package is holding.


Asked how the talks are going, a European diplomat tells us they do not believe there are any problems.

“There are talks between the leaders but I haven’t heard any major obstacles,” this person said.

What’s going on now?

Leaders are negotiating in small groups and different combinations.

Slovakia to nominate Maroš Šefčovič for European Commission

Slovakia will put forward Maroš Šefčovič as its candidate for commissioner.

Šefčovič is a long-serving member of the commission, currently serving as an executive vice-president.

As leaders negotiate over top jobs, in the press area another competition is getting attention as well.

And as leaders grapple with questions about top EU jobs, Ireland’s Simon Harris had a phone call with Joe Biden about the situation in the Middle East, Ukraine and Northern Ireland.

Who is António Costa?

António Costa is the frontrunner to replace Charles Michel as president of the European Council.

He is the lead contender for three reasons: he is a socialist, from southern Europe, and well-liked among European leaders.

With the European Commission job slated for the centre-right European People’s party, which won the most seats in the European parliament elections, the second-place socialist party is set to take the Council role.

And with a German politician – Ursula von der Leyen – on track to get the Commission role, and Estonia’s Kaja Kallas floated for top foreign policy job, leaders are seeking geographic diversity for the package.

Costa, who became Portugal’s prime minister in 2015, announced his resignation in late 2023 amid an investigation into alleged illegalities in his administration’s handling of large green investment projects. An election in March then brought the rival centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) to power.

Costa himself has not been accused of any crime, and given his reputation as a pragmatist who is easy to work with on the European stage, many leaders appear open to supporting him.

Nevertheless, there have been some voices raising questions about legal issues in Portugal and asking for more clarification regarding Costa’s current situation.

'It looks like the pro-European forces can continue,' Metsola says

Roberta Metsola, the European parliament president, said she will have three messages tonight.

“Democracy is very much alive, it looks like the pro-European forces can continue to cooperate over the next years in what will be a very demanding legislature,” she said.

“Secondly, the demands and the results of the parliament must be taken into account for the election of the president of the European Commission, and I can confirm that a majority of the political groups in the European parliament support the lead candidate process,” Metsola said.

The parliament will also be ensuring “the smoothest of processes for the election of the next president of the European Commission.”


Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has met with Law and Justice’s Mateusz Morawiecki and the Slovenian Democratic Party’s Janez Janša.

Janša is a close Orbán ally, but his party belongs to the centre-right European People’s party (EPP).

Law and Justice is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).


Slovenian prime minister endorses Costa

Robert Golob, the Slovenian prime minister, has said that he supports António Costa’s candidacy for European Council president.

“He has lots of experience, lots of wisdom,” he said.

Golob also said he has received “clarifications” on legal issues raised in connection with Costa’s candidacy.


Petteri Orpo, the Finnish prime minister, has also expressed his support for Ursula von der Leyen.

While all eyes are on the EU’s top jobs, Poland’s Donald Tusk said he will be speaking with Germany’s Olaf Scholz about an incident on the German-Polish border.

Poland has raised concerns after German police reportedly left a group of migrants on the Polish side of the border.

German chancellor calls for quick decision

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, has said it is important for a decision to be made quickly because we are living in difficult times, Reuters reported.

“Given that the political platform that has so far supported President (von der Leyen) in parliament once again has a majority, I believe it will be possible to find a sensible solution quickly,” he said.

He added:

It is important for a decision to be made quickly, because we are living in difficult times and it is important to know what the future holds for Europe.


Greece’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, one of the European People’s party negotiators, was asked why he is backing Ursula von der Leyen.

“Because she was our spitzenkandidat, and because the EPP won the European elections – and because she is a very good president of the Commission,” he said.

'I’m not a candidate', Danish prime minister says

Mette Frederiksen, the Danish prime minister, said when arriving at the summit that “from my perspective, and from a Danish perspective, I think Ursula has done a good and a great job.”

“I think we need a quick decision,” she said, adding: “I’m quite sure that we’ll find a good solution.”

She also dismissed questions about whether she is a contender for a top job.

“No, I’m not a candidate,” she said.


Meanwhile, Spanish far-right Vox’s Jorge Buxadé has criticised Ursula von der Leyen and the European People’s party.

Vox sits with the European Conservatives and Reformists group, along with Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and Poland’s conservative Law and Justice.

'We need to be very careful': Slovakia's president warns EU must be represented by person who can 'calm'

“Slovakia will be a constructive force,” the country’s president, Peter Pellegrini, said when arriving at the summit. Pellegrini is stepping in at the summit for Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, who is recovering after a shooting.

Fico is considered to be the EU’s second-most Kremlin-friendly leader, after Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

“We are looking for some unity,” Pellegrini said. Without naming Estonia’s Kaja Kallas, the leading contender for the high representative position who is known for her strongly anti-Kremlin views, he said:

We need to be very careful who will represent European Union and the Commission at the international level. And about that we have to discuss, not to make even more tension than it is in reality, we have to have there a person which will be able to calm the situation, which is now extremely under huge tension.


Arriving at the summit, the Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, said he is aiming for his country to get a strong portfolio in the next European Commission.

Greece’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Poland’s Donald Tusk – a former president of the European Council and former leader of the European People’s party (EPP) – will be leading negotiations on behalf of the centre-right.

Harris calls for quick decision on top jobs

Simon Harris, Ireland’s leader, has arrived for the informal summit.

Speaking to reporters, he said:

It is a statement of fact that president von der Leyen was the lead candidate for the party that did receive the most seats in the election, in the European parliament.

And our discussions will begin tonight. There will be no decisions taken tonight, those decisions will be taken – I hope – at the end of this month.

Because I think it is important that we bring clarity quickly to these matters. We need to get it right, but we also need to do it with a degree of efficiency.

I don’t think there will be any gratitude from Irish citizens or European citizens if politicians here in Brussels are talking for weeks on end about who’s going to do what role, when there are so many pressing issues at European and global level.

He also said that “it’s likely that there’s an emerging consensus around the next president of the European Commission” but stressed that it’s a “process” that is just beginning and that there needs to be a “balanced” package.


Hungary’s Viktor Orbán also met with the former Polish prime minister, Law and Justice’s Mateusz Morawiecki, “to discuss uniting European right-wing forces.”

Law and Justice is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, along with parties such as Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.

We’re waiting for EU leaders to arrive for talks. Stay tuned.

Orbán and Meloni discuss European right

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni held talks ahead of the summit.

'Full support': EPP campaigns for Ursula von der Leyen

Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People’s party, has stressed that the party is lining up behind Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as European Commission president.

Polish prime minister 'very satisfied' with von der Leyen cooperation

Donald Tusk said he is “very satisfied with the current cooperation with the president of the European Commission, as she fully understands the fundamental issues for Poland.”

Tusk endorses Kaja Kallas

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, has endorsed Kaja Kallas, who is a contender to become the bloc’s next high representative for foreign affairs.

Who is Ursula von der Leyen?

Ursula von der Leyen was the first woman to lead the European Commission in its 62-year history when she was appointed in 2019.

A long-time ally of former German chancellor Angela Merkel, von der Leyen was nobody’s first choice and scraped through a confirmation vote in the European parliament with only nine votes to spare.

Ahead of her term, she described the most pressing challenge as “keeping our planet healthy” but was soon confronted with a once-in-a century pandemic and the biggest war on European soil since 1945.

After a stumbling start on Covid-19, she won plaudits for her response to coronavirus and the war in Ukraine, steering through common borrowing and thirteen rounds (so far) of economic sanctions against Russia.

But she has faced criticism for failing to consult with senior colleagues on big decisions and allegations of evading scrutiny.

Born in Brussels, von der Leyen was the daughter of a senior Commission official and went on to qualify as a medical doctor, before eventually entering politics in her native Germany for the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

With a reputation as a workaholic, she is known for living in her office - a spartan 20 m sq room on the 13th floor of the commission’s Berlaymont headquarters.

If she is confirmed, von der Leyen can be expected to propose efforts to boost the EU’s common defence funding and co-operation, as well as an EU structure to combat foreign interference.

She will also be tasked with ensuring implementation of the Green Deal at a time of populist attacks on environmental policies.

Who is Kaja Kallas?

Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s 46-year old prime minister, is the favourite to become the EU’s next foreign policy chief.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kallas has become a familiar face on the European stage, in part through her very frequent appearances in international media.

She has passionately advocated for greater support for Kyiv and for Europe to invest more in its own defences, becoming one of the best-known political figures from the EU’s eastern member states. In February, Moscow put her on a wanted list.

A liberal, Kallas belongs to Estonia’s Reform party – a member of the Renew Europe group – and has been serving as prime minister since 2021.

But despite her popularity among her colleagues abroad, Kallas’ party hasn’t been performing strongly at home. In the European elections, it came in third place in Estonia, with 17.9%.

And last year, she came under pressure when reports emerged that her husband part-owned a logistics company that continued to do business in Russia – a scandal she dismissed as political opportunism by her rivals.

Over the past months, Kallas’ name has been floated for a number of international roles. She was considered too hawkish to win support to lead Nato, but it now appears that fellow leaders are open to her taking on a leading role when it comes to EU foreign policy.

A lawyer by profession, Kallas has specialised in European and Estonian competition law. She was first elected to Estonia’s parliament in 2011 and later also served as a member of the European parliament.

Like Ursula von der Leyen, Kallas comes from a political family. Her father, Siim Kallas, served as Estonia’s prime minister in 2002-2003 and spent a decade as a European commissioner. She is the mother of one child.

Polish prime minister highlights security, migration, rule of law ahead of summit

Poland wants a Europe that is decisive and strong in matters of security, migration, rule of law and defence, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, said on social media ahead of the summit.

Warsaw is ready to finance these needs, he said, underscoring that this is what voters want and these will be his priorities in the negotiations that are just starting.

Leaders from the centre-right European People’s party are meeting in Brussels, ahead of a gathering this evening of the bloc’s 27 heads of state and government.

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has arrived at the Amigo hotel in Brussels, where he was expected to meet with Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, Ansa reports.

Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party has repeatedly signalled that it wants to join Meloni’s European political family, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

Latvian prime minister endorses Ursula von der Leyen

Ahead of the summit, leaders are meeting bilaterally and in small groups.

Latvia’s prime minister, Evika Siliņa, said Ursula von der Leyen has her “full support” for a second term as European Commission president.

Ursula von der Leyen on track to keep job after EU elections boost

Ursula von der Leyen is on track to remain for a second term as president of the European Commission, as EU leaders meet this evening for a first discussion on divvying up the bloc’s top jobs.

The EU’s 27 heads of state and government will gather for dinner in Brussels in their first group meeting since European elections last week boosted nationalist and far-right parties and triggered Emmanuel Macron to call snap elections in France.

At stake is whether von der Leyen receives a second five-year term as head of the commission, which initiates and enforces EU law. EU leaders will also decide on successors to Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, and Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat.

Von der Leyen has long been the clear frontrunner. As the lead candidate for the centre-right European People’s party, which will be the largest group in the new European parliament with 26% of the seats, her position has been strengthened by the Europe-wide vote.

Consensus is also firming around Portugal’s Socialist former prime minister António Costa to take over from Michel in chairing EU Council meetings.

Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, is a favourite to take over from Borrell as the EU’s chief diplomat.

Read the full story here.

Welcome to the blog

Good afternoon and welcome to a special edition of the Europe blog, coming to you from the informal European Council summit in Brussels.

The EU’s 27 heads of state and government will be gathering for talks this evening.

On the menu: now that the EU elections are over, the leaders will be discussing how to divide the bloc’s top jobs – in particular the roles of European Commission president, European Council president and high representative for foreign affairs.

Stay tuned and send your comments and tips to

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