European leaders have agreed a deal to fill the EU’s most important jobs, backing Christine Lagarde to lead the European Central Bank and Ursula von der Leyen to be president of the European Commission.

On the third day of a gruelling summit in Brussels, EU leaders gave near-unanimous support for a package based around Ms Lagarde, France’s former finance minister who is now head of the IMF, and Ms von der Leyen, Germany’s defence minister.

But the proposed deal remains unconfirmed because it is facing resistance from parts of the European Parliament, which must back Ms von der Leyen’s appointment. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to abstain on the deal because of resistance from some of her party’s coalition partners in Berlin.

The breakthrough among leaders ends five weeks of wrangling to fill the most important policymaking roles in the EU, which have become vacant at the same time. The bloc has never had to fill all its key roles within such a short period.

The chosen team will steer the bloc through an age of upheaval, handling Brexit, the aftermath of the financial crisis and trade policy with regard to US protectionism and Chinese economic power.

The agreement means the two most important policymaking jobs in the EU will be held by women for the first time.

The selection of Ms Lagarde, not an economist or one of the front-runners to replace Mario Draghi, was unexpected. She has become a superstar of international finance after eight years as head of the IMF and four as French finance minister.

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But she has no direct experience of monetary policy which could prove a disadvantage as the ECB searches for new ways to combat weak inflation and boost the eurozone economy.

Ms Lagarde said she was honoured to have been nominated for the ECB presidency. “In light of this, and in consultation with the ethics committee of the IMF executive board, I have decided to temporarily relinquish my responsibilities as managing director of the IMF during the nomination period.”

Ms von der Leyen is a longstanding ally of Ms Merkel and the only minister to have served in every cabinet since Germany’s chancellor took office more than 13 years ago.

Her nomination to replace Jean-Claude Juncker at the commission is set to ensure the centre-right European People’s party retains the most coveted post in Brussels. Ms von der Leyen would be the first German to head the commission in half a century.

Several senior officials attending the summit said Ms Lagarde’s name had been tied to Ms von der Leyen as part of the deal between Paris and Berlin.

Other parts of the package agreed on Tuesday place Charles Michel, Belgium’s liberal prime minister, as the next European Council president, while Josep Borrell, Spain’s foreign minister, is set to become the EU’s foreign policy chief.

Diplomats said they expected Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, the lead candidates for the socialists and liberals in May’s election would be rewarded with jobs as vice-presidents under Ms von der Leyen.

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The position of European Parliament president would be a separate but related part of the compromise, which needs the approval of political groups in Strasbourg.

Names under consideration include Sergei Stanishev, the Bulgarian socialist; Manfred Weber, the German MEP who led the EPP election campaign; and Ska Keller, the German Green. 



Via Financial Times