EU leaders meet for a summit at which they were supposed to decide who gets which European Commissioner posts – one for each member state – in what will be a huge carve-up, so huge in fact that it may well be that only a very few jobs are decided tonight.
Current best guesses – though they are just guesses – are that despite a willingness among some to play nice with the Brits, Prime Minister David Cameron may lose out again having voted against Juncker at a June summit. He is seeking one of the big economic portfolios; internal market, trade or competition but putting forward a low-profile politician as his point person in Brussels has not that made that any more likely.
Because Juncker, the former Luxembourg premier, is from the centre-right and western Europe, the leaders may look for socialists or women from northern, eastern or southern Europeans for the other two key posts of European Council President and foreign policy chief. Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt keeps getting mentioned in dispatches for the former though her country is not in the euro zone, while the foreign minister of Italy is the frontrunner for the latter.
Conservative Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is seen as favourite to become the permanent head of the Eurogroup caucus of euro zone finance ministers. But it only requires one piece of this house of cards to be pulled for the whole edifice to collapse. The likelihood is that it will be some weeks yet before all the appointments are settled.
The summit will also discuss the latest in Ukraine. The EU agreed last week to add 11 new names to its list of people hit with asset freezes and asset bans, but that was a highly incremental move which in no way suggests it is any closer to imposing the wider trade sanctions that would really hurt. Nonetheless, with capital outflows of $75 billion in the first half of the year and a flatlining economy, Russia is already hurting.