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European Union

EU summit fails to reach agreement on top jobs

EU leaders have failed to agree on successors for a host of top jobs, including the bloc's foreign policy chief. Member states have agreed to meet again in August to haggle over candidates.

EU leaders wrangle for top jobs

Tensions flared at the EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday over who should succeed foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, with Eastern European nations expressing concern that Italy's nominee for the post was too friendly toward Russia.

Italian Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini has been tipped as the frontrunner to succeed Ashton, but Lithuania's president appeared to indirectly criticize Mogherini for lacking experience and not taking a tough enough stance during the Ukraine conflict.

"I will support a person with experience in foreign affairs, and a person who is neutral and at least reflects all opinions of all member states on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and I will not support a person who is pro-Kremlin," said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi denied that there had been opposition to 41-year-old Mogherini's candidacy, but he said that Italy's voice should be respected.

"This is not about questioning one position or another, it's questioning the respect that is due to all member states, and in particular to a founding member," Renzi said.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Bulgaria's Kristalina Georgieva, current EU commissioner for development, are considered possible alternative candidates for foreign policy chief. Some critics, however, consider Sikorski too tough on Moscow and Georgieva too inexperienced in foreign policy.

EU member states did agree during their summit on Wednesday to escalate sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

'Unfortunate, but not dramatic'

The 28 member states also failed to agree on who should succeed EU Council President Herman van Rompuy. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, 47, is considered a frontrunner for the post. But France has expressed reservations about her candidacy because Denmark is not a member of the eurozone currency union.

According to diplomats, Paris might back Thorning-Schmidt if it is allowed to fill the post of economic and monetary affairs commissioner. But Germany is reluctant to see France's former finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, take the post given that Paris has not brought its deficit down to EU levels.

Other key posts include the EU commissioners for competition, trade, the internal market, and energy policy. EU member states have agreed to meet again in August to continue their negotiations over who should the fill the bloc's top jobs.

"It's a bit unfortunate, but not dramatic at all," incumbent EU Council President Van Rompuy said of the failure to fill the posts."These things take time. I'm absolutely certain we will take the decision on August 30."

slk/crh (AP, Reuters)

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