Von der Leyen lined up for second term under EU top jobs deal, sources say

FILE PHOTO: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speaks to press in Washington

By Andrew Gray

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European political groups on Tuesday agreed to a deal on top European Union posts, selecting Germany's Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as head of the European Commission, the bloc's powerful executive body, sources said.

The three main centrist groups agreed to the package that would also make Portuguese ex-premier Antonio Costa the chair of meetings of EU national leaders and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas the EU foreign policy chief, the political sources said.

EU leaders are expected to approve the deal at a summit in Brussels starting on Thursday. But von der Leyen faces the trickier task of getting approval from the European Parliament, where she will likely need broader support, diplomats say.

If the package is confirmed, it would represent continuity for the 27-member bloc, with centrist pro-EU factions keeping hold of top posts despite a far-right surge in elections to the European Parliament this month.

Von der Leyen, from Germany's centre-right, would stay at the Commission for another five years. Costa, a Socialist, would succeed liberal Charles Michel as European Council president. Kallas, a liberal, would take over from Socialist Josep Borrell.

The package ensures a geographical balance among the top-three posts.

The three factions have the votes to get the package through the European Council of EU leaders. But it remains to be seen how much resistance far-right prime ministers such as Italy's Giorgia Meloni and Hungary's Viktor Orban will put up.

Orban has spoken openly against the leadership package.

"Instead of inclusion, it sows the seeds of division," he posted on social media platform X on Tuesday. "EU top officials should represent every member state, not just leftists and liberals!"

Meloni has cultivated a constructive relationship with the EU political mainstream but expressed dissatisfaction with the top jobs being carved up in deals among the centrists.

Diplomats say von der Leyen may seek to win Meloni's support by giving Italy a powerful post in the Commission.

PACKAGE DEAL

The deal on the trio was sealed in a video conference of six national leaders representing the three centrist groups, the political sources in six European countries told Reuters.

Poland's Donald Tusk and Greece's Kyriakos Mitsotakis represented the centre-right. Germany's Olaf Scholz and Spain's Pedro Sanchez spoke for the Socialists. France's Emmanuel Macron and the Netherlands' Mark Rutte negotiated for the liberals.

Von der Leyen, Costa and Kallas had been widely expected to take the top jobs but the EU's national leaders could not agree on the package at a June 17 dinner in Brussels.

One of the stumbling blocks was that the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) claimed it should take one of the next two-and-a-half-year terms of the European Council presidency, rather than the Socialists having both.

The EPP appeared to have lost out on that demand. Three European political sources said the parties would now respect the tradition that the Council president serves two terms.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen, Rennee Maltezou, Michel Rose, Belen Carreno, Sergio Goncalves; Writing by Andrew Gray;Editing by Madeline Chambers, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Rod Nickel)