Key EU leaders agree on Ursula von der Leyen for second term

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EU leaders representing the three main political groups in the bloc have agreed to put European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen forward for a second term, a source close to the talks told AFP on Tuesday.

The European Union’s 27 leaders head to Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit intended to divide up the bloc’s top jobs in the wake of this month’s European Parliament elections.

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Ahead of the gathering, six leaders acting as chief negotiators have reached a deal that now needs to garner support from a weighted majority of 15 leaders at the summit.

The accord divvies up the key posts among the alliance dominating the parliament: The center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and its partners, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the centrist Renew Europe.

In addition to returning the EPP’s von der Leyen as commission chief, it taps former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa of the S&D as European Council president, and Renew’s Kaja Kallas, the current Estonian premier, as the EU’s foreign policy “high representative.”

The same trio of names had emerged during an informal first meeting in Brussels last week, but leaders had failed to seal the deal on that occasion.

The six negotiators were Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for the EPP, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for the S&D, and French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for Renew.

In Berlin, the head of Germany’s Christian Democrats, Friedrich Merz, confirmed the leaders’ agreement ahead of a meeting of his party, to which von der Leyen belongs.

“It’s a good decision, it reflects the will of the electorate,” he said.

But while the three centrist groups account for an overwhelming majority of the EU’s 27 leaders, there are dissonant voices as well.

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, for one, believes the election success of her hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping -- shaping up as the EU parliament’s third force -- should be reflected in the bloc’s leadership.

She has called it “surreal” that the ECR was not considered in the top job negotiations.

And Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban likewise spoke out against the deal shaping up among the centrist alliance.

“The deal that the EPP made with the leftists and the liberals runs against everything that the EU was based on,” he posted on X on Tuesday.

“Instead of inclusion, it sows the seeds of division. EU top officials should represent every member state, not just leftists and liberals!” he wrote.

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