The Latest: Merkel wants quick deal on head of EU Commission

The Latest: Merkel wants quick deal on head of EU Commission

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest on European elections (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she'd like to see a quick agreement on who should run the European Union's executive branch, a matter on which her own governing coalition so far is divided.

In her first comments on the outcome of the European Parliament election, Merkel said both her center-right bloc and her center-left coalition partners back the idea that the head of the EU's executive Commission should be a politician who ran for that job.

Merkel said "we want to find a solution as quickly as possible, because the European Parliament will meet at the beginning of July and it would of course be desirable if there were already a proposal at that point" from heads of state and government.

Merkel's Union bloc backs German conservative Manfred Weber while the center-left Social Democrats support the Netherlands' Frans Timmermans. Merkel said "the quicker we make the decision, the better that is for the future."


4:45 p.m.

The leader of Italy's governing 5-Star Movement is blaming abstentions among his voting base for the party's bad showing in the European parliamentary election.

Luigi Di Maio acknowledged Monday that "for us, the European elections went badly." The 5-Stars finished third in Italy after being the top vote-getter in a national election just a year ago.

Di Maio said the abstentions mean "there is a lot to do. There are responses to give to these people who are awaiting answers."

The SWG polling agency said voters who backed the 5-Star Movement last year either were disappointment and stayed home, or voted for Matteo Salvini's hard-line League party. A full 38% of those who voted 5-Star last year abstained, while another 14% voted for the League.

The 5-Stars took just 17% of the vote, compared with nearly 33% last year.

Salvini's party captured 34% of Sunday's European vote and the opposition Democratic Party made a surprise comeback to finish second with 22.7%.


4:15 p.m.

A senior German official is criticizing the leader of the Brexit Party that trounced traditional political forces in Britain's vote for the European Parliament.

Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister, said Monday that Nigel Farage's past terms as a lawmaker in the EU parliament hadn't been marked by work "but rather by demagoguery and laziness."

Roth told reporters in Berlin this was his personal view of Farage, who was first elected to the assembly in 1999. But he said it also applied to nationalists and populists in general, who he accused of trying to "divide the country and Europe with lies and hate."

Roth, a member of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party, said the Brexit Party's rise was the result of a failure to complete Britain's departure from the European Union in recent months.


3:20 p.m.

A day after the European Parliament elections, Pope Francis issued his annual message on migrants and said the attitude that they are the source of all of society's ills "is an alarm bell warning of the moral decline" the world faces.

Francis said the presence of migrants in wealthy countries is instead an invitation "to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity."

Officials stressed that Francis' message was not political but pastoral and the Vatican did not comment on the European Parliament vote. But some church leaders weighed in.

At a press conference launching the migrant message Monday, the head of the European conference of Catholic bishops, Luxembourg Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, said the results of the European Parliament vote "would have been worse" if Francis and the Catholic Church hadn't consistently stood up for migrants.

The leader of Italy's right-wing populist League party, Matteo Salvini, is firmly anti-migrant and his party came in first in Italy's EU vote.


2:55 p.m.

Spain's caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has been reaching out to other European leaders to seek support for his plans to increase Spain's influence in European institutions.

In addition to having dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Sánchez has another one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday afternoon, his office says.

The meetings come after Spain's Socialists came first in Sunday's EU election in their country, winning 20 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, more than any other Social Democrats in the 28-nation bloc.

Sánchez will also have preliminary discussions with other European socialist heads of government before joining the rest of the EU's leaders in Brussels for a Tuesday night dinner.

Spain is vying for one of the top jobs in the EU, seeking to promote caretaker Foreign Minister Josep Borrell — a former European Parliament president — as a possible replacement for Federica Mogherini as Europe's top diplomat.


1:05 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her Conservative Party's drubbing in EU elections shows the need for Parliament to pass a Brexit deal and take the U.K. out of the European Union.

May's Conservatives came a humiliating fifth with less than 10% of the vote. The Brexit Party, which backs leaving the EU without a deal, came first.

May — who is stepping down as Conservative leader in June — said it had been a "very disappointing night" for the party.

She said the result "shows the importance of finding a Brexit deal, and I sincerely hope these results focus minds in Parliament."

The result bolsters those who want Britain to leave the EU with no agreement on departure terms and future relations.

Most economists say that would cause economic turmoil and plunge Britain into recession.


12:45 p.m.

The Scottish National Party has won three of the six Scottish seats in the European Parliament while the Labour Party came up empty, losing the two seats it had held.

The results announced Monday gave one seat each to the newly formed Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.

The SNP, which favors another independence referendum for Scotland, won just over 37% of the votes cast.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that her party won the election "emphatically" in a rejection of Britain's plan to leave the European Union.

Nonetheless, the Brexit Party that wants an immediate break with Europe came second.

The count was slowed by the wait for results from the remote western isles of Scotland.


12:30 p.m.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon says European integration is "dead in its tracks" after European election wins by nationalist and populist parties in Italy, France and Britain.

Bannon told The Associated Press that the results show Europe's center is imploding and that traditional right-left politics are being replaced by a battle between "nationalist versus globalist" forces.

He said "people are taking their countries back ... it's just the beginning. It's going to get more and more powerful over time."

It's unclear whether the diverse nationalist, populist and far-right parties across Europe will be able to form a united bloc in the European Parliament. And even if they do, they will be far short of a majority.

Still, Bannon predicted a "supergroup" of euroskeptic parties would block any attempts to deepen integration among EU member states. He said "every day will be like Stalingrad," a reference to one of the fiercest battles during World War II.


12:30 p.m.

The leader of Italy's right-wing populist League, Matteo Salvini, says he is counting on like-minded parties in other parliamentary groups to join his hard-line euroskeptic movement, with the goal of creating a 150-strong bloc.

Salvini told reporters in Milan that he is counting on Britain's new Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage and Hungarian leader Viktor Orban's Fidesz to leave their current groups and join the Europe of Nations and Freedom group that includes far-right parties in France and Germany, among others.

Salvini said he also hopes to expand the group to at least 100 members, with an ambition to make it as many as 150, by also bringing in parties from the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Spain, "if everyone can overcome jealousies, sympathies and antipathies."

He said the goal is to create 'an alternative, and to do so, "you play. You don't do it by turning up your noses."


12:25 p.m.

Romania's election office says the Social Democrat Party, or PSD, the main party in the governing coalition, has been defeated in the European Parliament election.

The Central Electoral Bureau said Monday that the PSD got 23.7% of the votes, while the opposition National Liberal Party, or PNL, got 26.2%.

President Klaus Iohannis, a former PNL leader, said the PSD-led coalition had been punished "for the disastrous way they have governed the country."

The junior member of the coalition, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, gathered just 4.2% of the votes, below the 5% threshold needed in Romania to gain a seat in the European Parliament.

Despite the coalition's poor showing, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila declared already late Sunday, when exit polls were showing a dead heat between the PSD and the PNL, that she wouldn't step down.


12:15 p.m.

Updated provisional results from the European Parliament elections confirm that mainstream political parties will retain power in the assembly, despite losing significant seats to the far-right and to the Greens.

Fresh results Monday show the center-right European People's Party would remain the biggest group, with 182 seats, down from 217 in the last polls in 2014. The center-left Socialists and Democrats would secure 147 seats, a drop of 40 seats from five years ago.

The environmentalist Greens are likely to make significant gains, with 69 seats, up from 52, as will the pro-business ALDE group with 109 seats, compared with 68 last time.

The Europe of Nations and Freedom group, uniting the French far-right and Italian populists, looks set to secure 58 seats, up from 37 in 2014.

Turnout was 50.8%, the best in 20 years.


12:05 p.m.

A senior member of the anti-immigration and euroskeptic Danish People's Party has expressed dissatisfaction with the party's poor showing in the European Parliament election.

Kenneth Kristensen Berth says that "this was not what we expected" after the party's support fell to 10.7% compared to 27% in 2014.

Berth, whose party is Denmark's second largest in the national parliament, said Monday issues of the climate and the environment were "a bit hysterical" and that his party "is not a climate-denial party" but "we need to keep our heads cool."

Green parties made big gains in Europe's 751-seat parliament amid growing concerns over climate change.

The party, founded in 1995, got two seats, down from the four they got in five years ago. Pundits say scandals involving the party's misuse of European Parliament funds contributed to the loss.


11:35 a.m.

France's far-right leader pulled off a narrow victory over President Emmanuel Macron and is now seeking big concessions from the government.

Far-right party leader Marine Le Pen said after Sunday night's voting that "at a minimum" Macron must dissolve the French parliament and put in place a voting system more favorable to her party at home.

Le Pen's National Rally defeated Macron's centrists by a nearly one-point margin and both won 23 seats in the European Parliament.

Macron "put his weight into this battle," she said, noting his unusual campaigning for his party.

Le Pen swore she wasn't seeking revenge for her loss to Macron in the 2017 presidential race.


11:20 a.m.

The nationalist and populist Sweden Democrats party has made the largest gains in the European Parliament elections by grabbing 15.4% percent of the votes in the Scandinavian country.

The 5.7% gain over the last election to the parliament of the 28-member European Union translated, in 2014, gives three seats to Sweden's third largest party.

The ruling Social Democrats remain Sweden's largest party in the European assembly, winning 23.6 % of the votes to get five seats. They are followed by the country's second-largest party, the Moderates, which got four seats.

The Sweden Democrats had earlier pushed for a referendum on leaving the EU, which Sweden joined in 1995. However, the party now says it wants to work with like-minded parties from across the EU to change "the supranational union."


10:25 a.m.

The leaders of Germany's governing parties are discussing possible consequences from their worst post-World War II showing in a nationwide election amid discontent with their stuttering performance over the past year.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc and her junior partner, the Social Democrats, met for internal talks Monday morning and were set to meet together later in the afternoon at the chancellery.

Merkel, who stepped aside as head of the Christian Democrats earlier this year, has so far not publicly commented on Sunday's results.

Her party won 28.9% of the vote and the Social Democrats got 15.8%. Five years ago, Germany's traditionally biggest parties took 35.4% and 27.3%, respectively. Germany's Greens surged to second place Sunday amid increasing concern about climate change.


10:15 a.m.

The chastened Labour Party's economic spokesman, John McDonnell, says Britain's main opposition party should now consider taking the Brexit issue "back to the people."

John McDonnell tweeted Monday that the party "can't hide from hit we took last night" after Labour's poor performance in European elections.

He warns that the country now faces the prospect of a "Brexiteer extremist" succeeding Prime Minister Theresa May, with the threat of a "no deal" Brexit looming large.

He says Labour's response must be to unite the party and the country "by taking issue back to people in a public vote."

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticized for not taking a clear position on whether he favors a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.


10:05 a.m.

While populists have made gains across much of Europe, the trend has not extended to Denmark, where the anti-immigration Danish People's Party has seen its number of seats in the European Parliament halved and support dropping from nearly 27% in 2014 to 10.7% this time.

The euroskeptic party, founded in 1995, only got two seats. Pundits say scandals involving the misuse of European Parliament funds are a main reason for the loss.

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's pro-EU and pro-business Liberals became the largest Danish party in the 751-seat transnational parliament where Denmark has 13 seats. It grabbed 23.5% of the votes and doubled its number of seats to four.

The People's Movement Against the European Union, a faction created in 1972 as a cross-party campaign platform for a 'no' vote in Denmark's referendum on joining the bloc then known as the EEC, lost its single seat. In the 1970s and 1980s, the group had four seats.


10 a.m.

A triumphant Nigel Farage says his newly founded Brexit Party plans to "change the shape of British politics" after its victory in the European elections.

Farage said Monday the new party will "stun everybody" in the next British general election if the country still hasn't left the European Union.

The party Farage started after Britain failed to leave the EU on its planned exit date in March has won 28 of the 73 British EU seats up for grabs and almost a third of the votes in results announced early Monday. More results are expected later in the day.

"We're not just here to leave the European Union but to try and fundamentally change the shape of British politics, bring it into the 21st century and get a Parliament that better reflects the country," Farage said.

The Brexit Party's strength and strong performances by the Liberal Democrats and Greens doomed the mainstream Conservative and Labour parties to dreadfully poor results.


9:45 a.m.

Poland's electoral authorities say the ruling Law and Justice party has won more than 45% of the votes in the European elections, a very strong showing after an aggressive campaign against a united opposition that mobilized the divided nation.

The preliminary results announced Monday by the State Electoral Commission suggest that the right-wing ruling party has a good chance of winning crucial elections to the national parliament in the fall and continuing its policy of social conservatism and euroskepticism. The EU has put Poland under scrutiny for its attack on rule of law.

Analysts said the intensive campaign with the participation of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and quick containment of crises contributed to its good showing.

Poland has 52 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, of which Law and Justice will take at least 24. The turnout figure was an unusually high 45%.


9:35 a.m.

Green parties in Germany, France, Britain and elsewhere in the European Union are celebrating big gains in elections for the bloc's 751-seat parliament amid growing voter concerns over climate change.

Provisional results early Monday showed the Greens' bloc coming fourth in the election with 70 seats, an increase of 18 compared with 2014.

If confirmed, the results could put the Greens in a position to tip the scales when it comes to choosing the next head of the EU's executive Commission.

In Germany, the Greens came second with over 20%, gaining more than a million votes from each of the two governing centrist parties.

Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc, called the results "a wake-up call for politics."


9:05 a.m.

The office of the caretaker Spanish prime minister says that Pedro Sánchez is traveling to Paris on Monday to analyze the results of the European Parliamentary election with French President Emmanuel Macron over a working dinner.

The meeting at the Elysee Palace signals the first talks for possible alliances as European politicians vie for control of the bloc's chamber and top EU jobs. Sánchez's Socialists won 20 of Spain's 54 seats, making them the strongest national group among the European social democrats, who are second only to the conservatives.

Meanwhile, with 23 seats expected — the same as Marine Le Pen's National Rally — Macron's Republic on the Move party is a defining voice in the pro-business liberals.

Both leaders were already set to meet Tuesday during a dinner of all European leaders in Brussels but have scheduled an earlier private meeting that will allow Sánchez and Macron to discuss the renewal of top jobs in European institutions as well as the EU's strategic agenda for the new five year term, says a statement from Spain's Moncloa Palace.

Sánchez won a national election late last month but his Socialists need support from other parties to keep him in power.


9 a.m.

French government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye says president Emmanuel Macron won't dissolve the lower house of the French parliament after the far-right National Rally won the most of votes at the European Parliament elections.

Official results in France showed Marine Le Pen's party had 5.3 million votes overall, compared with 5.1 million for Macron's movement.

Speaking on French channel BFM TV on Monday, Ndiaye said the results did not trigger "a political crisis," adding that Prime Minister Edouard Philippe "has all the confidence of the president."

Le Pen said the result "confirms the new nationalist-globalist division" in France, adding that Macron "has no other choice but, at the very least, to dissolve the National Assembly."


8:10 a.m.

The League party of Italy's hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, was one of the biggest winners in the European elections, with soaring support that bolsters his role as the flagbearer of the nationalist and far-right forces in Europe and could also shake up politics at home.

With one-third of the Italian vote, the League is poised to become one of the biggest parties in the European Parliament with 28 seats, according to provisional results.

Meanwhile, Salvini's coalition partner in Italy, the populist 5-Star Movement, got only 17 percent, shifting the balance of power from last year's Italian election.

Salvini said before the European vote that a strong result for his party wouldn't change the coalition agreement, but it strengthens his hand in tense negotiations over government policies.


7:25 a.m.

The parties of France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist President Emmanuel Macron will have the same number of seats in the European Parliament — for now.

Official overall results Monday from France's European voting show the parties were so close that they will both have 23 seats in the European Union legislature.

However Le Pen's nationalist, anti-immigration National Rally party is set to gain one seat when Britain leaves the EU and the Parliament reapportions its seats. Macron's pro-EU Republic on the Move party would stay at 23 seats.

Le Pen's party had 5.3 million votes overall, compared to 5.1 million for Macron's party, according to results from the Interior Ministry.

France's Greens party will have 13 seats after placing a surprisingly strong third, followed by eight seats for the conservative Republicans and six seats each for the far-left Defiant France and the Socialist group.


6 a.m.

The traditional centrist leaders of Europe have been assailed from the nationalist, anti-immigration far-right and the environmental activist left in polarized, continentwide elections that will force pro-European moderates into forging new alliances.

The main issue uniting those occupying Europe's center ground is their refusal to work with far-right groups whose ranks are made up of nationalist parties led by the likes of Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France, whose parties celebrated landmark triumphs from four days of voting for the 751-seat European Parliament.

Manfred Weber is leader of the center-right EPP, which lost 36 seats but remains the largest group in the legislature. He says that "from now on those who want to have a strong European Union have to join forces."

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