And while his U-turn may have been unpopular, European leaders will now get to focus on the decision to support Ukraine rather than discussing succession plans, as Michel will stay on until the end of November instead of taking up his European Parliament seat in mid-July.
Those who defend him say there was little pressure anyway. Michel staying “doesn’t make a difference. He wasn’t leaving now anyway,” said a third diplomat. “Running for elections is what they [politicians] do.”
Still, Michel’s announcement earlier this month fired the firing gun on the European top jobs race. European capitals have now actively been thinking (if they weren’t already) about how to distribute the top jobs at the European Council, Commission, Parliament, and the EU’s diplomatic service after the European election in June.
Mette Frederiksen, the current socialist prime minister of Denmark, is a name that continues to be floated around Brussels. For some, she is seen as too right-wing on migration, but that could be a political plus if the European Parliament swings more to the right, as is expected.
But Southern European socialists still hope Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, who was the frontrunner to replace Michel, will be untouched by a corruption investigation that forced his government to resign.
Another name being repeated in Brussels is former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who has been tasked with drawing up a report on the future of the single market for European leaders.