The EU will soon get a new leadership team. Here are the names currently in the mix

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has pushed for a policy of derisking from China.

Frederick Florin | Afp | Getty Images

BRUSSELS, Belgium — European diplomats have already started key negotiations on who will take the main jobs at the European Union following elections next month.

Voters across the 27-member EU are heading to the polls between June 6 and 9 to choose the next set of representatives in the European Parliament. The very top EU jobs, which aren’t directly elected, then get dished out in the weeks following. They hold sway over central policymaking and Brussels ultimately impacts the livelihoods of 450 million people across the region.

Diplomats within the EU are already trying to figure out who will be leading the three big institutions in the coming years: The European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.

Three top officials, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, told CNBC that the most likely scenario is that Ursula von der Leyen, the current president of the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the EU, will remain in the job.

Von der Leyen was catapulted to the top of European policymaking back in 2019, when French President Emmanuel Macron threw her name into the ring to unlock an impasse over an overall “top jobs” package that included Christine Lagarde as the new European Central Bank president.

“Von der Leyen has a lot of support from European heads of state,” one of the three sources told CNBC via telephone.

The same source added, however, that Macron, the mastermind behind the previous round of negotiations, has not yet shown his support for another Von der Leyen mandate and the source suggested that he is keeping some room to maneuver when the official talks commence after the election.

In fact, Bloomberg has reported that Macron has been floating the idea of having the previous ECB President, Mario Draghi, return to EU politics and lead the commission.

One senior EU diplomat told CNBC that Macron is using the silence to put pressure on Von der Leyen. The third source said that Draghi probably wouldn’t take the job, but agreed that it was a way to pressure on Von der Leyen. CNBC has reached out to the Elysee Palace but it was not immediately available for comment.

Current opinion polls suggest that Von der Leyen’s party, the conservative European People’s Party at the EU Parliament, is likely to win EU-wide elections, however, she might have to forge some compromises with far-right politicians as they are gearing up to increase the number of seats within the parliamentary chamber.

The three sources also told CNBC that if Von der Leyen does continue as president of the European Commission, then the expectation is that a member of the European socialist grouping will lead the European Council, the institution that brings together the heads of state from across the EU nations.

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen are the two names currently being discussed in Brussels.

In typical Brussels fashion of trying to split the top jobs among the most voted parties, this selection would leave the role of High Representative, which is the EU’s top diplomat who is in charge of foreign relations, to the liberal group Renew. Here, Kaja Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, is seen as the most likely candidate.

With only a month to go before voters head to the polls, talks over the distribution of the next top jobs are intensifying. However, the final decision will only be taken once the results are in.

Regardless of who leads the EU, the next five years of policymaking in Brussels are expected to be a lot more focused on defense and on how to cut certain dependencies from China and, to some extent, from the U.S.


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