European Union leaders have engaged in their first skirmish over who should become the next European Commission chief, giving themselves a short deadline to agree on the bloc's top jobs.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was upset with French President Emmanuel Macron's dismissal of Berlin's preferred candidate, centre-right lawmaker Manfred Weber, as the 28 national EU leaders bargained behind closed doors over the bloc's leadership for the next five years.
"The key for me is for the people at the most sensitive positions to share our project and be the most charismatic, creative and competent possible," Macron told reporters as the summit ended in Brussels.
"It is important for me to have gender balance."
Macron pushed against Weber, listing Danish EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, French Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, and Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans as candidates.
Elections last week returned a European Parliament with a splintered centre, gains by pro-EU liberals and Greens and far-right Eurosceptic nationalists.
Held once every five years, the European Union election means new people will take over key EU institutions, including the powerful executive Commission.
Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel described the race as searching for the next "Mr or Ms Europe".
Stripped of their combined parliamentary majority, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) would no longer be able to decide on the next Commission head alone.
They are looking for support from the liberal ALDE and the Greens, since the four groups together would command enough seats to approve or reject any nomination by the 28 state heads.
The national leaders agreed to finalise their nominations at their next gathering on June 20-21, with the new EU chamber's first sitting on July 2nd.
Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker steps down October 31 as Commission head, which acts as the EU's competition watchdog, monitors member states' budgets and proposes policies from climate change to tech regulation.
Other big roles up for grabs later this year include the head of the European Parliament and the European Central Bank (ECB), the bloc's foreign policy chief and the head of the European Council.
The EU would risk an institutional logjam if talks drag on, leaving it unable to make pivotal policy decisions at a time when it faces a more assertive Russia, China's growing economic might and an unpredictable US.
Australian Associated Press