Saturday

20th Jul 2019

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.

Analysis

Vests & Votes: how protests hit Macron's EP prospects

The 'Yellow Vests' protests have the potential to change the game in the French European Parliament elections, bringing new issues onto the agenda. But the greatest threat, potentially, is to the populist parties on the edges of the political spectrum.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us