Thursday

18th Jul 2019

MEPs set scene for EU top jobs battle

  • Barroso was chosen for a second term in office after a long power struggle between member states and MEPs (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

With 100 days to go until the EU elections, MEPs have agreed a wishlist on how the next European Commission and its President should be chosen.

The report, passed by the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee on Tuesday (11 February) and due in plenary next month, calls on governments to clarify how they will "honour" the EU citizens' vote when they put forward a commission President candidate.

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The issue is at the heart of a power struggle between member states and MEPs.

Several MEPs believe the top candidate put forward by the most popular political party should automatically get the post. But governments are generally keener to see the vote as indicative only.

The treaty itself says merely that the election result should be “taken into account.”

Meanwhile, the finer details on how the two camps should go about choosing the candidate leaves room for institutional gridlock: They require that both sides "consult" on how to pick the candidate.

MEPs in the new report ask member states to "clarify" how these consultations should look well before the 22-25 May election.

Deputies also want any commission President candidate to put forward a political programme and to be grilled by MEPs. Only then should their candidacy be put to vote in the parliament.

MEPs encouraged governments to put forward women candidates for commissioners and allowed the future president full autonomy to turn down a nominee.

Deputies are further seeking to influence the nomination process by saying that several commissioners should be chosen from their own ranks.

"As many members of the next commission as possible [should be] chosen from among elected Members of the European Parliament," says Tuesday’s report.

Portuguese Paulo Rangel, the centre-right author of the own-initative text, says the wishlist will "strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the European Commission."

His report also takes aim at the unwieldy size of the commission. It suggests that each of the 28 commissioners having their own portfolio - as is currently the case - is no longer viable.

Instead there should be "commissioners without portfolio" or a system of vice-presidents responsible for "thematic clusters."

Anticipating future EU treaty change, the Rangel report says the parliament should battle for the right of legislative initiative and make it easier to censure the European Commission.

The report is not legally binding. However, it gives an indication of the role parliament would like to play in negotiations on the next European Commission.

MEPs have also in the past shown themselves to be adept at expanding their powers in this area - winning the de facto right to reject single commissioner candidates.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the current commission President, was only elected for a second term in office in autumn 2009 after a months-long power struggle between member states and MEPs.

Centre-right leaders 'informally' back Barroso for second term

Conservative EU leaders gathered in Brussels ahead of the summit "informally" proposed Jose Manuel Barroso for a second mandate as president of the European Commission, with a final agreement to be taken in at the end of the year.

Feature

Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

After a inconclusive meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on Monday, all Green MEPs will now get to meet her on Wednesday - ahead of the key vote on her nomination as EU Commission president.

Analysis

EU top jobs: winners, losers, and institutional battles

The decision on the top jobs shed light on key developments in the EU: the changing of the centre-right guard, the failure of the spitzen-system, Germany's confidence, Macron's political success, and the illiberal problem.

Greens eye 'kingmaker' role among MEPs for von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen immediately visited the European Parliament on Wednesday in order to gather support for her nomination to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission president. The Greens will now be key for her to secure the job.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

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