Battle for EU's top job hots up

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Media captionHerman Van Rompuy: "Not a conflict between Britain and Germany"

The oracle has spoken.

Herman Van Rompuy is the man charged with finding consensus about who should run the European Commission and who should get other top jobs in Brussels.

He says the dispute about Jean-Claude Juncker's claim to become President of the Commission should not be seen as a conflict between Germany and Britain.

"We've all got to find a solution," he said, "and take a decision at least by qualified majority".

Mr Van Rompuy would clearly like to avoid putting the name of Mr Juncker - former prime minister of Luxembourg - to a divisive vote among EU leaders at a summit at the end of the month.

But his remarks could suggest that, if push comes to shove, a vote could happen. And as we speak, Britain seems to be short of the blocking minority that would prevent Mr Juncker getting the nod as nominee.

A "qualified majority" means the votes are weighted according to a country's population - so Germany's vote for example counts for more than Malta's.

Parliament's new clout

It would be unprecedented to appoint a Commission president against the explicit wishes of one of the larger member states. But there's no denying that the rules have changed.

The power of the European Parliament has grown. Perhaps the political groups in parliament are trying to push things too far with their interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty, but they certainly can't be ignored.

Parliament can reject any nominee by majority vote. And the European Council - the bloc's 28 government leaders - would clearly prefer to avoid a damaging constitutional stand-off with parliamentarians.

So the search for consensus goes on. There are those who think negotiations will rumble on through the summer, others who think Mr Juncker will withdraw under pressure.

But at the moment it looks like someone will end up with plenty of egg on their face.

And not for the first time in the last few years, the decision on whose face is in the firing line probably rests with Germany's Angela Merkel.