The Prime Minister’s prospects of landing one of the EU’s top jobs appear to have become bleak, despite intense lobbying by embassies and senior Maltese officials in European capitals.
EU leaders on Thursday evening kicked off their crucial summit meeting in Brussels aimed at coming up with a list of names for the prestigious posts, but sources told the Times of Malta that so far Joseph Muscat’s name has not made it to any shortlist.
“Despite Dr Muscat having made it amply clear in EU corridors that he was after the post of [Federica] Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative, this is not likely to happen,” a senior EU diplomat told the Times of Malta.
“Obviously, when these discussions take place, you cannot exclude anyone, but I can tell you confidently that the Maltese Prime Minister will most probably not make it,” another diplomat within the Council presidency said.
Who will head where?
In their summit meeting, EU leaders discussed who will be nominated to head the EU’s main institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council – as well as the High Representative, also known as the EU’s foreign minister.
He would surely be an asset in the next election
The unwritten agreement is that the persons appointed to the posts will reflect the results of the last European elections in terms of the political groups they represent.
On Friday morning, EU Council president Donald Tusk said talks had so far failed to bear fruit. EU leaders will now reconvene on Saturday July 2 to try and reach agreement on the posts.
According to senior EU diplomats, the Commission presidency is expected to again be occupied by a member of the centre-right, the European People’s Party; the Parliament presidency will be split between the Socialists and the Greens; the Council presidency may go to the Liberals while the High Representative will be another Socialist nominee.
The two most likely names for the Socialist nominations are Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Vice President of the Commission, and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borell.
Although Dr Muscat has never publicly admitted that he is seeking a top EU job to make his exit from Maltese politics, it is an open secret among his kitchen cabinet and friends that this is his goal.
Government officials close to Dr Muscat said on Thursday that since the ‘big’ EU role appears unlikely, the possibility of the prime minister being nominated as Malta’s next European Commissioner is increasing.
In 2014, the Maltese government was among the first to nominate its next European Commissioner, Karmenu Vella. This time, no decision has yet been taken.
Last week, a spokesman for the Prime Minister categorically denied that Dr Muscat is interested in becoming Malta’s next Commissioner but sources close to Castille said this possibility had still not been ruled out.
“The only problem for this exit route for Dr Muscat is the potential response of the European Parliament, which has the prerogative to botch any of the nominated commissioners,” a senior diplomat said.
“The EP has not been very complimentary towards Dr Muscat’s government of late, particularly due to rule of law issues, money laundering claims and the perception of other serious governance problems,” the diplomat said.
Sources close to Dr Muscat said he could continue serving as Prime Minister, despite repeatedly saying he would not be leading Labour into the next general election. However, a petition is being collected asking him to stay on.
“Unlike the PN leader, Dr Muscat is in demand. He would surely be an asset in the next election, which should be easy to win given the current state of the PN,” a senior aide said.
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