Varadkar dismisses EU role amid deadlock at ‘top jobs’ summit

EU Council meeting to extend into unprecedented third day after efforts to broker deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives on Sunday for a European Council summit on filling the top EU institution jobs, in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives on Sunday for a European Council summit on filling the top EU institution jobs, in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

 

EU leaders will meet again in Brussels this morning in an attempt to break the deadlock over filling the union’s top jobs for the next five years, after frantic exchanges and desperate efforts to broker a deal.

The emergency summit on the issue broke up in disagreement after a late-night negotiating session continuing into the early hours of Monday failed to reach a deal, but will resume at 11am this morning, extending into an unprecedented third day.

Sources in Brussels said late last night that while meetings and diplomatic contacts were continuing, the leaders were awaiting fresh proposals from Donald Tusk, the president and convenor of the European Council of national leaders, which they hope would break the deadlock this morning.

The failure to reach an agreement on selecting the next leaders of EU institutions led to angry recriminations yesterday, with French president Emmanuel Macron declaring the EU would have to change its methods of decision-making.

“We have to profoundly change our rules. While we have not reformed the workings of our intergovernmental method, we will not be credible on the international level, we will not be credible in the eyes of our citizens and it will be impossible to enlarge in any way the EU,” Mr Macron said.

Mr Macron also criticised unnamed EU leaders for “hidden agendas”, saying that “the spirit and determination to defend the general European interest” was lacking around the council table.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar remained in Brussels overnight, postponing this morning’s regular Cabinet meeting.

Mr Varadkar again signalled he was not interested in the role of president of the European Commission, despite suggestions in some quarters that he could become a compromise candidate for the role.

Official and diplomatic sources said such an outcome was unlikely, and Fine Gael Ministers in Dublin dismissed the notion that Mr Varadkar might leave national politics for a European role at this stage.

Central to disputes

The presidency of the European Commission, the EU’s powerful civil service and policy-making engine, continues to be central to disputes among the EU leaders, though several other high-profile roles are also due to be filled.

The leaders are seeking a composite deal for the roles which balances national and regional considerations, gender and political allegiance, but agreement has so far eluded them.

Mr Varadkar continued to back the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP), the German MEP Manfred Weber, for the commission job. However, the view among senior Irish sources is that if Mr Weber’s candidacy fails – with many saying it already has – Dublin would be happy to back chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, also of the EPP.

The Taoiseach met with another candidate, Dutch socialist Franz Timmermans, last night, but sources counselled against reading any change of position into the meeting.