EU seeks women for top jobs

Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (left) and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini Image copyright Reuters and AP
Image caption Two women tipped for top EU jobs: Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt (left) and Italy's Federica Mogherini

So this is the week when Jean-Claude Juncker will finally be confirmed as the next President of the European Commission.

(If it does not happen, you might just be able to persuade me that Brazil came back to beat Germany 8-7 in the World Cup semi-final.)

Now thoughts turn to who else will join Mr Juncker around the European Commission table.

Nominations are supposed to be made in consultations between the 28 member states - which get one Commissioner each - and the incoming President.

But 10 countries have already announced names before the European Parliament has voted on Mr Juncker's candidacy. There are some heavy hitters in there, three former prime ministers among them.

But there's one major problem. All the nominees are men.

Gender balance

Mr Juncker has made it clear that he wants at least as many women Commissioners as the nine appointed by Jose Manuel Barroso in 2009.

He's asked every country to give him two names, so he can shuffle his choices - but some governments are clearly ignoring him. (He might want to get used to that.)

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The European Parliament's approval is required for top appointments to the European Commission

The current women on the Commission sent Mr Juncker an open letter last week urging him to make sure there are at least 10 female Commissioners (why not go for parity and say 14?).

It now looks like he's going to have to lean on some smaller countries to make sure he gets the balance he needs.

One woman Commissioner he could well get from one of the larger member states is Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

She has emerged from the pack as favourite to become the next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (and Vice-President of the Commission).

Well, that's a start then.

No, but wait... Eastern European countries, especially those in the Baltics, aren't happy with Ms Mogherini. They argue that she is too inexperienced, and - more pertinently - that she will be insufficiently willing to take a tough enough line against Russia.

It's a little ironic that after a chorus of complaints that too many old faces and insiders are being appointed to top jobs, a 41-year-old woman who has been in office as foreign minister for less than six months is deemed by some to be too much of a new face.

But appointing a new foreign policy chief is the first line of business at an EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday, the day after parliament votes on Mr Juncker.

The choice needs to be made before the summer break, so that the formation of the rest of the Commission can proceed relatively smoothly.

The outgoing High Representative, Baroness Ashton, will step down in November.

Optimists hope the summit could also produce the name of the next President of the European Council.

There's strong support in some quarters for Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. But (and yes, there is always a but) the French aren't so keen because Denmark isn't in the eurozone.

Square pegs, round holes? It could end up being all, or possibly none, of the above.