June 12, 2019 / 1:14 PM / 4 days ago

Four eastern EU states to discuss top jobs, keen to boost their influence

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The leaders of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic will discuss in Budapest on Thursday potential candidates for top jobs in the European Union coming up for grabs shortly, in a sign of regional coordination by the so-called Visegrad Four.

FILE PHOTO: Leaders of Visegrad countries Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini are welcomed by European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of a European Union leaders summit after European Parliament elections to discuss who should run the EU executive for the next five years, in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2019. Oliver Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

EU member states must pick new presidents of the executive European Commission, the European Council - which groups member states - the European Parliament and the European Central Bank.

The EU’s ex-communist eastern members, which have joined the bloc since 2004, are haggling over candidates for key posts to help steer the course of a continent long dominated by wealthy western states such as Germany and France.

“It will be an informal meeting which I cannot inform you further about,” Bertalan Havasi, the press chief of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told Reuters, adding there was no plan for any press statement.

He declined to comment on possible eastern candidates for any of the top jobs, though Orban said last month the V4 countries would take a common stance on the issue.

Among the outgoing presidents of the main EU institutions, only Donald Tusk, president of the Council and a former Polish prime minister, hails from the ex-communist wing of the EU. Another Polish ex-PM, Jerzy Buzek, previously led the European Parliament.

“For these geographical reasons Poland won’t get any top job, and the other three big countries from V4 won’t get them either,” Ryszard Czarnecki, senior politician at Polish ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party said.

“But Poland and other V4 countries will be involved in the decision-making process. This will be a game between political factions on the European level,” Czarnecki also said.

Bargaining over the jobs seeks to balance the interests of individual states and groups of countries as well as political parties. Southern European leaders convene in Malta on Friday, while Belgian premier Charles Michel also hosted a dinner last week to discuss details with select leaders.

EU leaders will meet on June 20-21 to haggle over the jobs.

The V4 countries take a tough stance on issues such as migration and are generally opposed to moves to concentrate more powers in EU institutions at the expense of national governments.

The right-wing nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland have clashed with Brussels over immigration and rule of law issues. Of the V4 countries only Slovakia uses the euro and the other three show no desire to ditch their national currencies.

Reporting by Reuters bureaus in BRUSSELS, PRAGUE, WARSAW and BUDAPEST,; Editing by Gareth Jones

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