In the wake of the May 25th elections to the European Parliament, the European Union has been struggling with the next step in the continent’s governance: the selection of candidates to fill the most important positions in the bloc.

Indeed, the process of choosing the EU’s leadership has been the most turbulent in decades, demonstrating the still precarious nature of European politics in the aftermath of the economic crisis – and potentially foretelling deeper disagreements on issues such as fiscal integration, economic policy, and a common response to Russian belligerence.

These disagreements – over who should lead the EU’s foreign policy, the European Council, and the European Commission – come just a few months after newcomers shook up Europe’s political scene. An energetic mélange of political forces, by turns nationalist, far-right, proto-populist, anti-immigration, and generally Euro-skeptic, surged to electoral victories – in particular in France and the UK. While the centrist, pro-Union conservatives of the European Peoples’ Party retained their control of the parliament, the rise of extremist parties has pushed previously submerged schisms to the fore.

The starkest example of divisions within the EU became apparent in the fight over the appointment of the next European Commissioner.

In the wake of the May 25th elections to the European Parliament, the European Union has been struggling with the next step in the continent’s governance: the selection of candidates to fill the most important positions in the bloc.

Indeed, the process of choosing the EU’s leadership has been the most turbulent in decades, demonstrating the still precarious nature of European politics in the aftermath of the economic crisis – and potentially foretelling deeper disagreements on issues such as fiscal integration, economic policy, and a common response to Russian belligerence.

These disagreements – over who should lead the EU’s foreign policy, the European Council, and the European Commission – come just a few months after newcomers shook up Europe’s political scene. An energetic mélange of political forces, by turns nationalist, far-right, proto-populist, anti-immigration, and generally Euro-skeptic, surged to electoral victories – in particular in France and the UK. While the centrist, pro-Union conservatives of the European Peoples’ Party retained their control of the parliament, the rise of extremist parties has pushed previously submerged schisms to the fore.

The starkest example of divisions within the EU became apparent in the fight over the appointment of the next European Commissioner. The EU Commission, consisting of one representative from each member country, is meant to be the body in which each state is represented equally and which represents the interests of the Union as a whole, rather than the separate needs of the representatives’ home countries. The President of the Commission has always been selected by a consensus of EU heads of state.

Not this time. In a battle pitting not only Germany and the UK against each other, but also highlighting two very different visions of the future of the EU, UK Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied hard – although ultimately unsuccessfully – against the selection of Jean-Claude Juncker, the preferred choice in Berlin.

The UK has always occupied a unique position with regards to the European project – cautiously taking part in the formation and increasing consolidation of the EU while remaining aloof from the aspects that it sees as threatening to its own sovereignty. Notably, this attitude has manifested in a refusal to adopt the common currency and, most recently, a surge in popular opposition to the EU as expressed by the rise of Nigel Farange’s UK Independence Party.

Thus, Cameron saw himself come under pressure to oppose Juncker’s candidacy. Juncker, who served as chairman for the euro zone finance ministers during the darkest days of the debt crisis, is a consummately experienced statesman and political operator. But he is also seen in Britain and elsewhere as troubling enthusiastic for a closer political and economic union, having supported, for instance, greater control over monetary policy for the Commission, a form of shared budget for the Union, and the issuance of “Eurobonds” as a form of EU-backed debt.

In the end, only Hungary joined the UK in voting against Juncker, and the EU Parliament subsequently approved his candidacy by the wide margin of 422 to 250. Cameron was not ultimately able to over the force of Juncker’s position as a leader of the largest party in Parliament combined with the influence of Chancellor Merkel.

Yet the contentious selection of the Commissioner was only the opening salvo in a month of messy negotiations. On July 17th, a summit called especially to hammer out who would take over Catherine Ashton as the EU’s next head of foreign policy and who would replace Herman Van Rompuy as Council President flamed out after failing to resolve these issues.

Divisions arose over both issues of geographical representation and relations with Russia. As the conflict in Ukraine continues to smolder, the selection of the EU’s next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has taken on a heightened importance. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, was the primary candidate, especially given the increased clout of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the aftermath of his party’s triumph in the May elections. Mogherini, a youthful, center-left woman, was well positioned to balance the aging, male, center right Juncker.

But her candidacy quickly fell apart amidst complaints from Eastern European states that Mogherini was too close to Russian interests, having only weeks ago visited President Putin in Moscow and reiterated her support for Russia’s gas project in Southern Europe. Echoing her counterparts in Poland and the Baltic states, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was clear: “I will not support a person who is pro-Kremlin.”

The deliberations over the head of the EU Council, which consists of all EU heads of state, also ran aground. The Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, began as a favorite, but quickly ran into trouble given that Denmark has yet to implement the euro. Since the Council President presides over meetings of the currency union, some states, led by France, opposed a non-eurozone member for the post.

EU leaders have played down these theatrics – the delay is “unfortunate, but not dramatic” according to Van Rompuy. However, many observers can’t help but feel uneasy over the EU’s lack of decision and direction at such a time of strife. Another summit is set for the end of August, ensuring a long month of horse trading and positioning – but especially given the tenor of the Parliament elections, Europe’s leadership should take these unprecedented conflicts as a wakeup call that business as usual in the EU bureaucracy could sooner than later lead to an even worse crisis.