Tuesday

11th Dec 2018

Liberals ally with Macron for election, but no candidate yet

  • The Liberals declined to put forward a lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) for European Commission president at their congress in Madrid (Photo: Alde)

After months of wooing Emmanuel Macron, Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt saw his dream of an alliance with the French president's En Marche party become reality this weekend.

But it wasn't quite what he originally had in mind.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Astrid Panosyan, one of the founders of En Marche, formally made the offer of an alliance on Friday (9 November) at the party congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Alde) in Madrid.

It will see En Marche and Alde campaign together on a common platform in the run-up to the European election.

But En March will not join Alde - leaving options open until after the election.

Panosyan sought to reassure the Liberals that the intention is to join them in a group after the election.

"Make no mistake, Alde is the core with whom En Marche wants to build this coalition," she said.

However her speech suggested that the current Alde would only form the core of a new larger group yet to be created.

Macron has been trying to build a broad tent for a new group which also would take like-minded parties that are currently in the centre-left S&D and Green groups, and maybe even parties currently in the centre-right EPP.

While there was generally enthusiasm at the congress for the union with En Marche – Panosyan received a standing ovation – there was also apprehension over Macron's 'big tent' strategy.

Some fear that if the ideological spectrum within the group is too wide, it will dilute the group's message and leave it standing for nothing.

There is still lingering scepticism about Verhofstadt's expansion plans after his disastrous decision to invite Italy's Five Star Movement to join the group last year.

That move was resoundingly rejected by Alde members, and Verhofstadt now admits it was a mistake. But it left an impression with many Liberals that Verhofstadt is seeking to enlarge the party at any cost, trying to overtake S&D to become the second-largest group in the parliament in the next term.

Albert Rivera, the leader of Spain's Ciudadanos party, urged delegates to support the broadening of the group to form a progressive alliance against the populists and nationalists, even if it means making some ideological compromises. "I am willing to compromise," he said. "I am willing to build bridges, not walls".

No Spitzenkandidat

The Liberals declined to put forward a lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) for European Commission president at their congress, despite the fact that the EPP and S&D groups have selected their candidates – Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans – at their party congresses this month.

Despite having embraced the Spitzenkandidat process at the last European election in 2014, Alde is opposing the process this time around.

There was a general feeling at the Congress that the system has been designed to favour the EPP group, because it almost certainly will win the most seats in next year's election.

Emmanuel Macron has come out strongly against the process, saying that the choice of commission president should remain in the hands of member state leaders in the European Council.

A nomination coming from the council is more likely to result in a Liberal commission president because - including Macron - there are an equal number of ALDE and EPP leaders in the Council.

However, Alde will reluctantly participate in the Spitzenkandidat process by putting forward a team of candidates – most likely five.

According to Alde sources, this team is certain to include Guy Verhofstadt, but the rest of its composition is still uncertain.

Possible names include Danish competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Czech justice commissioner Vera Jourova. However, neither women put themselves forward at the congress.

Alde will decide who will be on the list in February. However the details of how this list will work remain murky.

Following her impressive performance at the congress, some were suggesting that En Marche's Panosyan could be on the list. However this may be unlikely given she has until now had only a behind-the-scenes role and has never held elected office.

Alde also adopted its manifesto for the 2019 election on Saturday, with the support of En Marche.

Opinion

EPP Spitzen-race: choice between Coke Light and Coke Zero

As the Spitzenkandidat process starts up again - for only the second time - the EPP group selects its lead candidate in Helsinki. Amongst the choreographed friendly rivalry, there are still a lot of policy blanks to fill in.

Feature

'Macron vs Orban' is no quick fix for EU democracy

A Macron versus Orbans styled election battle might lift turnout in next year's European Parliament elections, but under laying democratic problems would remain, warn experts.

European Liberals pin hopes on Macron

The French president "will be part of our family", Alde president Van Baalen said at the party congress. But some leaders, like Dutch PM Mark Rutte, seem to be less enthusiastic.

Agenda

Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK

All eyes on London this week, where May struggles to hold onto power against Brexit rebels, while EU leaders meet in Brussels on Sunday to try to clinch agreement.

Interview

Cohn-Bendit: still fighting for Europe

"The EU will have one less problem when the British aren't in because they always had mixed feelings", says the Franco-German political veteran.

News in Brief

  1. Seven EU states fail to sign UN global pact on migration
  2. EU scheme to bypass US Iran sanctions in place by new year
  3. ECB set to end quantitative easing
  4. Macron raises minimum wage to please 'Yellow Vest' protesters
  5. Lead MEP on Morocco resigns position on trade file
  6. EU gives green light to new human rights sanctions
  7. May pulls vote, seeks to renegotiate Brexit 'backstop'
  8. Report: May cancels Tuesday's Brexit vote in parliament

Opinion

'The kids aren't alt-right'

Steve Bannon's demolition derby is behind the curve of EU politics, writes Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Russian propaganda raises alarm in Ukraine and France
  2. May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges
  3. How EU agriculture policy endangers migrants' lives
  4. EU aviation agreement with Morocco in legal hot water
  5. Anti-semitism 'disturbingly normalised' in Europe
  6. Help consumers take cruelty away from EU's Xmas buffet
  7. EU court adds to knife-edge Brexit drama
  8. France and Germany back Dutch on human rights sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us