Leaders of the 28 EU countries met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss who will helm the bloc, the Union's strategic agenda for 2019-2024, and its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
In addition to the heads of the EU Council and European Central Bank and the EU foreign policy chief, the most controversial and challenging issue for leaders at the two-day summit is the nomination of a new EU Commission president.
'We continue step by step. I cannot accept a proposal that is not supported by the European Parliament,' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the summit, referring to the informal Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) system, in which the presidency goes to the party with the most seats in Parliament.
French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted gender equality issues, while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that there are serious differences of opinion among member states over who should take top EU jobs.
'Electing the pope is easier than appointing EU presidents,' quipped Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, adding that Ireland supports the 'sovereignty' of the Greek Cypriot administration.
After meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades, European Council head Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter that the EU leaders should stand in full solidarity with the Greek Cypriot administration on the row over drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
'I hope the EU sends a clear message to Turkey to stop its illegal activities in [Greek] Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone,' said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and Ankara has the right to hydrocarbon drilling as well.
Turkey’s Fatih drillship launched offshore operations on May 3 in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island, and is set to be joined by the drillship Yavuz.
In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure.
Reporting by Serife Cetin in Brussels
Writing by Burak Bir