Taoiseach has no ‘fixed position’ on next European foreign policy chief

Kenny dismisses speculation linking him with presidency of European Council

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a summit meeting of EU leaders in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a summit meeting of EU leaders in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government did not have a “very fixed position” on the nomination of the next European foreign policy chief as he acknowledged uncertainty over the outcome of the summit on top EU posts.

Arriving at last night’s gathering in Brussels, Mr Kenny dismissed speculation linking him with the looming vacancy for the presidency of the European Council in succession to Herman Van Rompuy.

“I’ve already made the point very clearly. I have enough on my plate to continue to sort out our public finances and get our country working,” he told reporters.

In reference to the foreign policy post, Mr Kenny said: “Insofar as the nominees for the high representative is concerned, we don’t actually have a very fixed position on this.”

As discussions behind the scenes advance on how new European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker allocates in his team, Mr Kenny also said Ireland’s commissioner designate, Phil Hogan, was involved in the talks.

“I know that the president is talking to some of the commissioners designate. Our own commissioner designate, Phil Hogan, is here in Brussels today and tomorrow engaging in the process of preparing for engagement with the European Parliament.”

Alternative approach

Mr Kenny was among the leaders who spent most of the day at pre-summit meetings in the city before they gathered for a formal dinner at 8pm.

In question last night was whether they would concentrate on selecting only the foreign policy chief or choose an alternative approach in which they would settle a package of jobs, including the council presidency and possibly the leadership of the group of euro zone finance ministers.

Also at issue were divisions over Italy’s nomination of foreign minister Federica Mogherini for the foreign policy post, and a push by many of the 2004 accession states to ensure a top-ranked job goes to one them. “It remains to be seen whether there will be a change in the person nominated from Italy and how prime minster [Matteo] Renzi will deal with any comments about that proposition,” the Taoiseach said.

Asked about the reservations surrounding Ms Mogherini’s nomination, Mr Kenny acknowledged that was part of the discussion under way.

“There are views about the requirement for considerable experience in such a sensitive and important position as the high representative and there are numbers of views from the former eastern bloc countries about the nature of the package that can be put together.”

The likely outcome remained unclear, the Taoiseach said just before the formal talks began.

“There are a range of views. Firstly, that it would be important to appoint the high representative this evening so the president of the commission could get on with his job of dealing with the appointment of members of the commission.

“Others have a view that unless you have a package you won’t have agreement on the high representative. So in the last two hours there’s been quite a deal of discussion. It remains to be seen what progress can actually be made in the course of the meeting here this evening, so it’s uncertain as we speak.”

The Taoiseach said the situation in the Middle East was a source of enormous concern to everyone.

“This is a conflict that will only end by discussion and negotiation,” he said.

“People have to have the resolution to sit down and negotiate an end to this particular conflict, otherwise the senseless killing of people, possibly on both sides, will continue.”