Here are the officials selected for the best jobs in the EU

European Union leaders on Thursday chose three senior politicians to lead the bloc’s institutions for the next five years, signaling commitment to Ukraine and the need for stability amid electoral upheaval in Europe and, potentially, the United States.

At a summit in Brussels, the heads of government of the 27 EU members agreed to propose Ursula von der Leyen, a German conservative, for a second term at the helm of the powerful European Commission, the Union's executive body.

António Costa, a socialist and until recently prime minister of Portugal, was chosen as president of the European Council, which comprises the 27 heads of government, thus balancing Ms von der Leyen's political and geographical background.

And Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, a hawk on Russia, was the official chosen to become the bloc's top diplomat.

The selection of these three high-level politicians, who all have strong working relationships with each other, is an effort by European Union leaders to place relatively centrist figures at the head of key institutions despite the rise of extreme political leaders right, such as Giorgia Meloni in Italy, as well as ultranationalist and nativist parties, such as Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France.

Ms von der Leyen’s reappointment will face a serious test in the European Parliament, the bloc’s only elected institution, where she will have to push for a majority in the 720-seat assembly in a secret ballot in mid-July. She belongs to a centre-right grouping that is the largest in the parliament but far from a majority.

Ms von der Leyen, 65, has emerged as an unexpected wartime leader for the European Union in her role as president of the European Commission since 2019, gaining greater visibility on the world stage than she has ever had in her career in German politics.

Often referred to by her initials “VDL” in policy circles, von der Leyen became a household name in the European Union after leading a response on behalf of member states to the coronavirus pandemic, including the joint procurement of vaccines and medicines, and an economic stimulus program financed by jointly issued debt, both firsts.

His staunch support for Ukraine in its war against Russia has been his most recent signature policy. He has used the committee's resources to lobby for funding for Ukraine's armaments and reconstruction, as well as pushing for the country to one day join the European Union.

Deeply supportive of Europe’s strong ties with the United States, Ms. von der Leyen has quickly become one of the most trusted leaders in Europe for President Biden and his administration. This close alliance has been particularly evident in advancing major sanctions against Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

EU leaders, who appoint these senior officials, said that despite some criticism, they are satisfied with the way Ms von der Leyen has managed to direct the Commission's tens of thousands of experts and resources to support the response of the Union to the main crises of the last five years.

Ms von der Leyen, a workaholic who practically lives in a studio in her 13th-floor office at the European Commission, has been criticised as a micromanager, alienating some senior members of the commission. More recently, her seemingly uncritical support for Israel in its war on Gaza has been criticised by some as not representative of the EU’s overall position. Some have also said she is not open enough with the media and the general public.

The New York Times has sued the commission in a freedom of information case, seeking publication of messages exchanged between it and Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla as they negotiated EU contracts for a Covid-19 vaccine. The exact terms and costs of the multibillion-dollar contract, the bloc’s largest yet, remain secret.

Costa, 62, a former socialist prime minister of Portugal, was chosen as president of the European Council. The Council is the institution that convenes the national governments of the member states and analyses their preferences.

The job involves some tricky diplomacy, as the prime minister is tasked with coordinating and guiding negotiations between the 27 leaders who come from different political backgrounds and primarily advocate for their countries' narrow interests. Mr. Costa will replace Charles Michel, a Belgian politician. Mr. Costa's two-and-a-half-year term can be renewed once.

Mr Costa's appointment is a tribute to the second largest political group in the European Parliament, the Socialists and Democrats. He has a good relationship with Ms von der Leyen, with whom he worked in her capacity as Prime Minister of Portugal during her first term.

With this appointment, Mr Costa, of Mozambican and Indian descent, will become the first person of color to hold a top position in the European Union.

He has been in trouble at home after corruption allegations ensnared his chief of staff last year, but has not been personally accused of any wrongdoing. He stepped down preemptively from his role after those allegations surfaced in November 2023.

The leaders also chose Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, to become the bloc's top diplomat and succeed Josep Borrell Fontelles.

Mr Borrell, a Spanish socialist, has a reputation for outspokenness, which has proved both an asset and a liability, depending on your point of view, during his tenure.

He has repeatedly expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state and criticized Israel for the way it is waging the war against Hamas.

But he also drew criticism for comments describing Europe as “a garden” and contrasting it with other parts of the world, which he called “a jungle.” The remarks, made as Europe struggles to gain global support for Ukraine, partly because of the long shadow of colonialism, have sparked accusations of neocolonialism and racism.

The choice of Kallas, who will have to resign from her position as prime minister to take on the new role, will send a strong signal to Russia. Kallas, 47, is a fierce critic of the Kremlin and one of the most outspoken pro-Ukrainian voices on the bloc.

While the European Union is not a major diplomatic force, with its individual member governments preferring to retain control of their own foreign policy rather than assign it to a collective center, its stance on Russia is important. The bloc collectively also controls a major set of sanctions on a number of countries around the world, including Iran and Russia.

Aurelien Breeden contributed writing from Paris, and Monica Pronczuk from Brussels.

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