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News 02 July 2024

Top story of the week: EU leaders agree on top jobs, shaping further the next EU institutional term and perspective on energy R&I files

On 27 June, European leaders agreed on appointments for the EU’s top jobs – EU Commission President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and EU Council President – and adopted the EU’s 2024-2029 Strategic Agenda during an EU Council meeting in Brussels. Socialist leader and Portugal’s former Prime Minister António Costa was elected as the new President of the European Council, succeeding Charles Michel from 1 December. Ursula von der Leyen was proposed for a second term as President of the European Commission, and Estonian Kaja Kallas was nominated for the position of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The distribution of EU leadership roles was agreed upon in negotiations led by heads of state from the three main political party families: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for the EPP (Christian Democrats), German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for the Social Democrats, and French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the Liberals.

This agreement, which balances regions, country size, newer and older EU members, political groups, and gender, was reached without the participation of Eurosceptic leaders such as Hungarian and Italian Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán and Giorgia Meloni, who sought representation given their group's significant presence in the European Parliament. Meloni notably opposed both Kallas and Costa while abstaining from the vote on von der Leyen.

Ursula von der Leyen will undergo a vote of consent by the European Parliament before formal appointment, while MEPs will vote on Kaja Kallas’s candidacy in the autumn as part of the full College of Commissioners package. Von der Leyen faces a narrow margin to secure majority support, potentially needing backing from the Greens, who are seeking assurances on future climate and environmental policies, especially since turning to the group of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) would risk losing the support of some of her allies at the centre and left of the hemicycle.

This major step towards defining the political direction of the EU institutions for the next five years will undoubtedly have significant consequences for the energy R&I agenda, particularly regarding the continuation of the European Green Deal, now becoming increasingly focused on policy implementation rather than policy formulation, with a stronger emphasis on competitiveness and the strengthening of industrial policy.

These considerations were further highlighted during the same Council meeting with the adoption of the EU’s 2024-2029 Strategic Agenda, which, as expected, focuses on issues related to security, defence, strategic autonomy, independence, and competitiveness, concretely linking climate and energy policies to this last dimension under the heading of “A Prosperous and Competitive Europe”.