Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

EU to decide top jobs next week

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, 30 Oct 09
Mr Reinfeldt (right) faces a difficult diplomatic balancing act as EU chair

The EU will hold a special summit on 19 November to decide the new top jobs of EU president and foreign policy chief.

"The extra informal summit... will take the form of a working dinner in Brussels," a spokesman for the Swedish EU presidency said.

The appointments will be made by the leaders of the 27 member states, by a qualified majority vote.

Belgium's Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, has emerged as a frontrunner for the post of EU president.

On Monday Sweden's PM Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was half-way through consultations with the governments on their preferred candidates.

Chosen by 27 member states by qualified majority vote
Two-and-a-half-year term
Can be re-elected once
Chairs EU summits
Drives forward the work of EU Council of Ministers
Facilitates cohesion and consensus
Represents the EU on the world stage

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the president of the European Council will be appointed by the governments for a term of two-and-a-half years, renewable once. The goal is to achieve more continuity and stability in major EU policy areas.

Besides Mr Van Rompuy, leading candidates for the job are said to include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his Luxembourg counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker.

The centre-left former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema is a frontrunner for the new post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Whoever gets that job will also become vice president of the European Commission.

Search for 'balance'

The Lisbon Treaty will come into effect on 1 December. It was ratified by the Czech Republic last week - completing a long and tortuous process of ratification by all 27 member states.

This post is utterly irrelevant, and so it should be. The real power in the EU rests with the heads of government, closely followed by the Commission
Tom, Exeter, UK

A third post will be decided at the summit - that of Secretary-General for the Council Secretariat. It will involve managing the business of the Council, which brings together the 27 EU governments.

In an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, quoted by the AFP news agency, Mr Reinfeldt said that "for many a left-right balance is very important, as is a balance between big and small countries, north and south, men and women".

His spokeswoman Roberta Alenius said "there are many names right now, but there is no clear favourite".

The UK government has been campaigning for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to get the job of EU president. France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Blair was still in the running - though he did not voice a preference for him.

There is speculation that the EU may opt for a leader from a small country who has a lower international profile, and who would act more as an enabling chairperson in Brussels. Unnamed diplomats say Mr Van Rompuy is seen as a clear compromise candidate.

Sources close to UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC on Tuesday that he was not seeking the EU foreign affairs job. Earlier he had been seen as a frontrunner for the job.

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