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European Union

EU leaders set to approve Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president

European Union leaders appear set to approve Jean-Claude Juncker as the European Commission's next president. The leaders of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are also to sign deals deepening their ties with the bloc.

EU summit set to confirm Juncker

As the 28 leaders concluded their first of two days of talks on Thursday, the vast majority of them appeared to be supportive of Jean-Claude Juncker's candidacy to replace current European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

However, British Prime Minister David Cameron again vowed to do everything in his power to prevent the longtime former Luxembourg premier from getting the job.

Cameron, who regards Juncker as an old-school European federalist incapable of the reforms he believes are needed, had threatened to put the matter to an unprecedented vote among the leaders.

The only other government head who had come down on his side of the issue is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Merkel mediates

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday sought to defuse tensions between London and the most of the rest of the European Union.

"I think we can find compromises here and make a step towards Great Britain," she said shortly before the leaders gathered in the western Belgian town of Ypres to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

"I repeatedly spoke of a European spirit which is needed and which will help us to find good solutions," she added.

The process of selecting a new European Commissioner is a complicated one, with both the European Parliament and the bloc's 28 leaders having a say in the matter.

Moving closer to the EU

Apart from seeking to reach a consensus on the next head of the European Commission, the leaders were set on Friday to witness the signatures of their counterparts from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on agreements to move the three eastern European countries closer to the EU.

Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is to pen the free-trade clauses of a deal that was signed in March. The last minute refusal by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign that deal late last year contributed to Ukraine's current crisis.

There has been no such hesitation from Georgia or Moldova to sign the association agreements or free trade deals, which are designed to increase political and trade ties. EU association agreements can be a first step towards eventual full EU membership.

pfd/ipj (dpa, AP,AFP)

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