Published: Sat, February 24, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

European Union leaders prepare life without Britain, mull future ties

European Union leaders prepare life without Britain, mull future ties

When 27 EU leaders meet on Friday, the UK's absence will not prevent sparks from flying over issues such as filling a post-Brexit budget hole and picking a new European Commission chief.

The majority of European Union leaders rejected an automatic mechanism for selecting the next Commission president that they believe strips them of the power to pick Europe's most senior official, with France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Latvia and Portugal opposing and the Social Democratic Prime Ministers of Italy, Sweden, Malta and the leftist Greece expressed their support for the Spitzenkandidaten system on Friday's meeting.

Tusk is going to ask leaders whether they are ready to pay more and to urge them to focus on defense, education and migration.

"The Strategy meets all the expectations of Macedonia because it acknowledges the country's accomplishments in reform implementation, it hints at readiness to be extended a clear recommendation on part of the European Commission for start of negotiations and it foresees a merit-based system for each of the aspiring countries", Osmani told a news conference on February 8 presenting the EU Strategy.

Spitzenkandidat, an obscure German word meaning "lead candidate", has become the most talked-about issue in the Brussels bubble.

He then quipped: "I am not the British prime minister".

In a related matter, the leaders are due to discuss the method for selecting the President of the European Commission.

That involves the largest party in the European Parliament nominating its candidate for the commission post, after which the European Council of EU leaders makes a final choice taking the pick of MEPs into account.

Tusk also rejected as "wrong" the notion that resorting to such automatism would be more democratic. Tusk rather suggested that a candidate chosen by the European Parliament and the European Council secures the European Commission's president "double legitimacy".

As next European Parliament (EP) election slated for May 2019 is drawing closer, the move dealt a blow to political groups in the EP, as well as Juncker, who adamantly backs the so-called "lead candidate" system.

The European Parliament itself voted against having a transnational list.

"We must take it step by step starting tomorrow", he said.

"The European parliament missed an opportunity in this context", said Macron.

Tusk said all other leaders "have no appetite to take this forward. above all, because it will substantially reduce the role of member states in the European Union".

The UK now has 73 MEPs - nearly 10% of the total amount of seats.

At an Irish Independent breakfast event this morning, the Taoiseach said he expected the draft text of the treaty setting out Britain's terms of withdrawal from the European Union in about two weeks' time. About 14 countries would get a few extra seats.

Finally, commission president Juncker also told leaders about his idea for a "super president", by merging the posts now occupied by him and Tusk. No formal decisions will be taken.

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