EU leaders fail to agree on bloc leadership

All-night talks end with failure to appoint new European Union chiefs for the coming five-year term.

    European leaders suspended their summit after 20 hours of talks failed to produce a deal on who should get the union's top jobs.

    The development prompted anger from French President Emmanuel Macron who said Europe's indecision was hurting its image abroad.

    Their inability to find consensus candidates during marathon negotiations that ran through the night reflected the fragmented state of the bloc's parliament, and underlined the problems in reaching a common position on issues from migration to climate change that have grown as the European Union has expanded.

    Macron, who left the venue shortly after the talks were abruptly called off until Tuesday morning, labelled the breakdown a "failure", though he said an agreement could still be found.

    Eastern European countries had strongly objected to a deal hatched by him and the leaders of Germany and Spain to hand the European Commission presidency to Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans.

    Timmermans' nomination was also deeply unpopular with the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, which argued it should hold the commission presidency as it has the most legislators in parliament.

    The post of commission president was just one of five that need allocating, also including president of the European Central Bank.

    Divisions among leaders as EU's 'Game of Thrones' begins

    It is highly unusual for summit talks to run into a third day, and the current negotiations mark what is already the third attempt to fill the posts for at least the next five years.

    Asked what the main sticking point in negotiations was, an EU official said: "The whole package."

    Macron said there could be no further enlargement of the 28-member bloc without reforms that permitted it to function.

    "It's just unbelievably complicated. You have so many political factions," said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, adding some factions remained divided among themselves.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union belongs to the EPP, was more conciliatory towards the eastern nations, saying the EU's larger members could not ignore the views of its smaller nations.

    Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, meanwhile, said there was enough backing for an agreement on how to allocate the European Union's top jobs, but it was the right decision to pause talks between national leaders until Tuesday because opposition was also strong.

    To be appointed, the next commission president needs the support of at least 72 percent of the 28-member states, which must represent at least 65 percent of the bloc's population.

    Diplomats said getting names agreed on was crucial for the EU's standing, as more delays would only provide fodder for anti-establishment nationalists who say the bloc is out of touch with its citizens, divided and dysfunctional.

    SOURCE: News agencies