Charles Michel has led the European Council since 2019
Charles Michel has led the European Council since 2019. AFP

Belgian politician Charles Michel has announced he will step down as European Council president after running in the European Parliament elections set for June.

The surprise move will heighten speculation about who will be the next EU leaders as negotiations begin for a new round of top jobs in November.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of Germany, who like Michel was appointed to her post in 2019, has so far kept quiet on whether she intends to seek a second term.

As Council president, one of Michel's main tasks has been overseeing EU summits that have become critical to the search for joint responses to crises including the Covid pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Four years after starting my term as a European leader, it's my responsibility to give an account of my work these past years, and to propose a project for Europe's future," Michel, the 48-year-old former Belgian prime minister, told Belgian media over the weekend.

He said he would head the list of the liberal Reformist Movement (MR) party, of which he is also a former president, and step down as council president in July.

"That means I would continue my work as European Council president until being sworn in as an MEP on July 16," he said.

A Council meeting is scheduled for just after the parliament elections, and "at this moment it will have to decide when my successor will take up the job," Michel said.

The parliament elections set for June 6-9 across the 27 EU members will pick 720 deputies in total and prompt fierce horse-trading for the leadership of European institutions, including EU commissioners and European Council members.