Mogherini poised to get EU foreign policy job

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Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is poised to become the next EU foreign policy chief. Photo: Maxim Shipenkov/AFP
07:56 CEST+02:00
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is poised to become the next EU foreign policy chief, several European sources said on Wednesday.

"It is clearly the way the wind is blowing," a European source said, only three days before a summit to fill top EU jobs.

"Nobody sees any alternative," another source said, though officials cautioned that a last minute surprise could never be ruled out.

The bloc's 28 leaders gather in the EU's capital Saturday to decide who will replace Catherine Ashton as head of the EU's foreign policy arm, one of the bloc's most coveted jobs.

This will be a second attempt at filling the five-year post after Eastern European leaders stonewalled Mogherini at a summit in July, alleging she was inexperienced and too close to Moscow amid tensions over Ukraine.

But careful lobbying by Italy's Prime Minster Matteo Renzi since last month has softened the opposition, with Rome backing toughened sanctions against Russia even though Moscow is one of the country's most crucial trading partners.

Another leading candidate had been the European Commission's well-liked humanitarian affairs chief, the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, though all sides have now agreed that the job should go to a socialist.

The leaders on Saturday will also seek to replace Herman Van Rompuy, the EU President whose job is to coordinate policy for the 28 heads of state and government.

Eastern Europeans will be making a big play for the job, with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk often mentioned along with former Baltic leaders Valdis Dombrovskis of Lithuania and Adrus Ansip of Estonia.

But Europe's Nordic countries also argue it is their turn for a big job.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a Social Democrat, has enjoyed wide support, including from Britain, to replace Belgium's discreet but effective Van Rompuy.

But Denmark is not a member of the eurozone, a drawback especially for France.

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Other names mentioned include conservatives Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny or the Finn Jyrki Katainen.

How the two top jobs are filled will help determine the make-up of the new commission, to be headed by Luxemburg's Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker, whose nomination to the head the Commission was fiercely opposed by Britain, has refused to reveal his intentions on how he will fill the other jobs until later in September.

With a few exceptions, member states have already chosen who from their country will staff the commission, but it will be up to Juncker to allocate the portfolio.

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