European Union leaders meeting in Romania on Thursday will pledge unity “through thick and thin” after the turmoil of Brexit and will have their first go at assigning the bloc’s most powerful jobs.
The bloc will hold European Parliament elections on May 23-26 and the outgoing chamber has already named its lead candidates – or “Spitzenkandidaten” – to become the next president of the new executive European Commission this autumn.
The bloc’s national leaders, however, want to hold the process under their control, which sets the scene for much horse-trading this summer. Below please find the leaders’ comments on arriving to talks in Romania’s city of Sibiu.
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL
“We will talk about our strategic agenda for the future and will agree a declaration which will make clear that, regardless of our political differences, we all believe — all member of the European Union – that acting together is better.”
“This means domestically, to guarantee peace and prosperity, but also with our voice abroad, advocating our values. The world is not sleeping. We must be innovative, we must be strong, we must be unified.”
FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON
“In 15 days some 400 million Europeans will choose… between a project … to build Europe further, differently possibly to reflect different sensibilities … or a project to destroy, deconstruct Europe and return to nationalism. This choice exists among all the European countries.”
GREEK PM ALEXIS TSIPRAS
“We need a (Commission) president that will support the unity of the European Union. So we need a president that will support the fundamental ideas of the European Union, which is solidarity, democracy, social cohesion.”
“We need a president who will be against neo-liberalism, against austerity and of course against this xenophobic approach of some extreme-right. So this president is not (Manfred) Weber, this is my position.”
DUTCH PM MARK RUTTE
“I hope Europe will focus on a few important issues, like the internal market, migration, climate. Big on the big things, small on the small things. Europe where a deal is a deal, where the rule of law and democracy is upheld. That type of Europe.”
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE
(on the Spitzenkandidaten process)
“I think it’s a little bit out of democratic procedures and treaties.”
SLOVAK PM PETER PELLEGRINI
“It will all depend on the result and whether we will be able to find a compromise to support all of the Spitzenkandidaten. We’ll see.”
LUXEMBOURG PM XAVIER BETTEL
“Spitzenkandidat is a party organisation. Journalists and we speak about Spitzenkandidaten, ask my voters – they have no clue who is the Spitzenkandidat from any party.”
“The Spitzenkandidat would have been a great opportunity if those candidates would also run in your own country, to have trans-national lists, presented in 28 countries, or 27 tomorrow.”
“It was more political choice of parties than really a choice for the people.”
“We have elections, we have to be able to analyse the result and to ignore them would be disrespectful to the voters.”
“Spitzenkandidat candidature was a mistake since the beginning. It’s not too late to ignore it.”
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
(On absent UK PM Theresa May)
“I’m missing her.”
LATVIAN PM KRISJANIS KARINS
“There are certain things that member states can handle very well on their own, there are certain things that we cannot handle on our own, one of these is climate change we have to get serious… about our policies, how we invest our common money and also presenting arguments to the U.S. and India to join us.”
CROATIAN PM ANDREJ PLENKOVIC
Q: Who do you support?
A: (Manfred) Weber.
ITALIAN PM GIUSEPPE CONTE
“Talks on future appointments are beginning. Italy aims at having an adequate representation in the European institutions.”