Meloni Surge Pressures Centrist Parties to Speed Up EU Jobs Deal

(Bloomberg) -- A surge by Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing political group in this month’s European election will compel the centrist parties, which won by a massive margin, to accelerate talks on appointing people to the bloc’s top institutional jobs, according to people familiar with the situation.

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European Union leaders will try to finalize an agreement at a summit next week that would see Ursula von der Leyen continue as European Commission president, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa take over the reins of the European Council and Estonia’s leader Kaja Kallas become the bloc’s top diplomat.

The urgency arises from the fact that the anti-immigrant European Conservatives and Reformists led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni are on track to become the third-largest group in parliament, knocking the Liberals — who form an alliance with the dominant center-right party and the Socialists — to fourth. This could give Meloni additional leverage when seeking important committees in the legislature or portfolios in the commission, according to the people.

“We are close to reaching an agreement at the next European Council,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a radio interview on Thursday. ”We have enough votes for the three political groups to be able to elect von der Leyen as president of the EU and not have to resort to political agreements with European parties that are to the right of the” center-right European People’s Party, he said.

EU leaders failed to reach a political agreement over an informal dinner in Brussels last week but have a deal in principle on the top positions, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters. While adjustments to that blueprint could still happen, that line-up remains the most likely outcome.

Meloni criticized the appointment process, arguing that since her group emerged among the winners, she had the right to claim “a top role” for her country.

“I found it surreal that after we met for the first time after the elections, some arrived with a list of names, without even trying to factor in what citizens indicated and that there should be a change in priorities,” the she said Wednesday at an event in Milan.

Where the parties remained at odds last week was on preempting who occupies the parliament and council presidencies beyond the 2 1/2 year terms foreseen by the two jobs, as well as who holds key commission portfolios like the green deal that’s mostly in the hands of the socialists, said the people.

And it’s on the latter discussions that Meloni will be seeking to use her influence and carve out a hefty position for Italy.

--With assistance from Lyubov Pronina, Chiara Albanese, Tommaso Ebhardt, Zoltan Simon and Jorge Valero.

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