PM Costa “disappointed” over choice of new EU leaders

Prime minister António Costa admitted that Socialists are “disappointed” by the choices made for the EU’s new leaders.

Choosing his words carefully, Costa suggested he was particularly disappointed that the European Commission had backed Germany’s centre-right defence minister Ursula von der Leyen to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker as president.

Giving an overview of the situation for European Socialists in general, tabloid Correio da Manhã said Costa’s plans for a Socialist president (Frans Timmermans) and a ‘mixed bag’ of left-wingers in the other top jobs was ‘defeated’.

The paper refers to a comment in Spanish newspaper El País, which described Costa going into gruelling negotiations “like the Pope, and coming out a cardinal”.

But it’s not all the fait-accompli that papers have been making it out to be.

Says The Telegraph: the losers from the “brutal power-broking” that took 27-hours of talks have been left “bruised and resentful”.

Euroactiv website warns: “Trouble looms”.

This is because the Commission’s choices have to be ratified by the European Parliament (on July 15) – and MEPs there may not play ball.

Meantime, António Costa let drop that he had been invited to take up one of the EU’s ‘top jobs’ during all the power-broking, but “would not dream of deserting Portugal”.

“I am very committed in continuing to do what I came to do,” he told reporters.

Former European Commission president Durão Barroso – who was in fact persuaded to quit his job as Portugal’s prime minister in order to shine in Brussels – has praised the various choices for the next Commission saying that, in his opinion, they will help make Europe stronger.

They include Belgian prime minister Charles Michel (Liberal) for the top post at the European Council and Christine Lagarde to substitute Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank.

Discussing the “very political choices”, website Politico hints at some of the trouble lying ahead: Von der Leyen, for example – described by Britain’s LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari as “not even a name in her own household” – is the subject of an ongoing investigation into misspending and mismanagement at the German defence ministry, while Lagarde – apparently the choice of EU finance ministers – “has faced her own misconduct allegations at home, including a conviction for negligence”.

Indeed, Lagarde’s predictions over many issues, particularly Brexit, have at times been seen as almost laughable. She told Portuguese television back in April that Brexit could herald a “stampede of parents-in-law” back to Britain which would be “a big issue” economically.

Adding to complications, says the site, is the choice of Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell for the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs. This is because Spain does not recognise Kosovo – due to Madrid’s total opposition to separatist movements – yet part of Borrell’s brief will be to negotiate peace between the two countries, so that both can aspire to the EU membership they crave.

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