EU Leaders Fail to Pick New Top Diplomat Amid Russia RowJames G. Neuger
European Union leaders failed to name a new chief diplomat for the bloc amid divisions over how to deal with Russia.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite rejected an Italian candidate as “pro-Kremlin” and western and southern countries opposed a Polish contender as too abrasive toward Moscow.
Discord over a successor to foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton blocked an agreement on other top positions at a Brussels summit, forcing the leaders to call another meeting on Aug. 30.
“We are not yet at the point where we can get a consensual solution,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters early today. “It often takes time to reach an agreement on names for important positions.”
The bustup over the next head of the EU foreign service echoed past personnel fights and came with the dust still settling over the appointment of Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president over U.K. objections.
Poland and the three Baltic republics, EU members once under Russia’s control, led the opposition to Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini as too eager to accommodate Russia and lacking experience after only five months on the job.
“We need candidates who can adequately understand the security situation in today’s Europe,” Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said. “At least one of the people in the key posts should come from our region.”
The personal rivalries carried over into EU policy on Russia’s infiltration of Ukraine. Leaders agreed to nudge sanctions to the next level while stopping short of broader curbs on trade with Russia.
Disputes over the foreign policy chief, who will be part of the commission that takes office Nov. 1 for a five-year term, held up the appointment of a successor to Belgium’s Van Rompuy as chairman of EU summits.
Other unfilled jobs include the next economics commissioner and the possible creation of the position of full-time chairman of meetings of finance ministers from the 18 euro countries.
“There’s nothing more uncertain than a package of nominations,” Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said. “It’s a very difficult balance to strike. It’s male-female, Socialist-Conservative, big country-small country, south-north, new country-old country.”