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Prime Ministers of Estonia and Belgium and Polish Foreign Minister are claiming post of head of EU diplomacy

World
Political heavyweights are vying to become the European Union’s next chief diplomat, seeing the role as a strategic opportunity to wield power as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine barrels into its third year, Politico reports.
 
The high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission chairs regular meetings of the EU’s 27 foreign, defense and development ministers, and represents the EU at G7 and G20 ministerial meetings. At the moment, the role is held by Spain’s Josep Borrell, who won’t be coming back.
 
But despite the grand title, critics say the job involves little power in practice. While national foreign ministers often play a crucial role, the EU relies less on the HRVP to get things done and instead leans on this person’s boss, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
 
An EU diplomat concurs. “What the EEAS [the EU’s diplomatic corps] needs is more money, better people and better HRVPs,” added the insider, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal thinking.
 
Still, several politicians from small member countries see the value of getting that job. Baltic countries, starting with Estonia, want to have a larger say on EU foreign policy, especially a tougher approach to future relations with Russia. Others close to the end of their domestic political careers want to prolong their position by moving into the EU machinery.
 
At a conference in Florence earlier this month, Borrell diplomatically avoided any question on who he thought was fit to fill his shoes, saying that it’s not his job “to pick out my successor.” 
 
With Borrell set to step down during the top jobs reshuffle in the wake of the EU election, several former heads of government have their eyes on the prize.
 
Here are some of the names in the frame.
 
Kaja Kallas — Estonia
 
The Estonian PM is the most talked-about name in Brussels when it comes to this job.
 
Three French officials with direct knowledge of the talks on the future HRVP confirmed to POLITICO that Emmanuel Macron’s office has been eyeing Kallas to succeed Borrell. But all three also said the French president was keeping his options open.
 
“There’s a good understanding between Macron and Kallas, she’s well-liked and they’ve got similar points of view,” said an aide from Renew. The French president has energetically backed Kallas’ proposal to create a defense industry fund. 
 
“She’s clearly seen as a strong personality of the Renew group. She’s a strong voice who has an impact beyond her country,” he added. 
 
Alexander De Croo — Belgium
 
The Belgian premier, who has been leading a diverse seven-party coalition, is unlikely to remain in office after the Belgian election on June 9. He has built a lot of goodwill with his counterparts in the European Council, and increased his international profile during the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU. He has visited both China’s Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden.
 
Sophie Wilmès — Belgium
 
A former Belgian prime minister and foreign minister, Wilmès’ name has started doing the rounds in connection with the HRVP role.
 
Wilmès stepped down from public office in 2022 to take care of her ill husband. She is running in the EU election, at the top of the list of the Francophone party Mouvement Réformateur. However, her main focus is on Belgian politics, and local officials expect her to use the European stage as a way to return to the domestic scene, potentially even returning as prime minister. Her past close relations with Michel could be a weakness when trying to land a top job in Brussels.
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