Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

EU Parliament ready for Council spat on top EU posts

  • The hopefuls for the next EU commission president - endorsed by the European Parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

In mid-May, the European Parliament's top civil servant Klaus Welle joked about the so-called Spitzenkandidaten - where lead candidates are selected for the next European Commission presidency.

"Our biggest success in the English language was 'Kindergarten'. Now we are doing 'Spitzenkandida't," quipped the German secretary-general to a round of laughter at the Norway House in Brussels.

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

Fast forward to this week, post EU elections, and some of the heads of state and government meeting over a dinner in Brussels are hoping to consign that German word to the history books, as the battle for the top posts of the EU institutions kick off in earnest.

The stage is now set for a tussle of powers between the European Council and the European Parliament on who and how the next president of the European Commission will be selected.

On Tuesday (28) at around noon, the first warning shot was fired by the European Parliament, after political group leaders from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the far-left GUE all joined forces to defend the Spitzenkandidat process.

"The majority of the groups is in favour of the spitzenkandidat position, which is the position of the European Parliament," announced European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani.

A statement endorsed by all four groups, following a morning meeting among them all, cited Treaty articles 17.6 and 17.7 in defence of the spitzenkandidat.

It also said a lead candidate is anyone who made their "programme and personality known prior to the elections, and engaged in a European-wide campaign."

That narrows the list down to the handful candidates already put forward by the individual groups, such as Frans Timmersmans for the socialists, Margrethe Vestager for the Liberals, or Ska Keller for the Greens, among others.

No 'parachuting-in'

But the ultimatum also means any surprise nominations by the European Council will be rejected by the European Parliament, causing a possible long-drawn out spat between the EU institutions.

Boosted by an over 50 percent voter turnout, the highest in 20 years, the European Parliament now sees itself as more self-assertive.

"Today is day of a basic decision on whether the parliament is a place for the decision-making process, that is today's date and the most important message," said Manfred Weber, the EPP chair who expects to become the next president of the European Commission.

However, notably absent from the declaration was liberal leader of the Alde group, Guy Verhofstadt.

The Belgian politician had instead issued a press release slamming the spitzenkandidat as undemocratic given the lack of transnational lists.

"A 'Spitzen' candidate that you cannot vote for in the whole of Europe is simply not serious," said Verhofstadt, in a statement.

Bullish Bullman

Udo Bullman, the leader of the socialist S&D, appeared sympathetic to Verhofstadt's concerns.

He told reporters that while his group also backs the concept of transnational lists, he doubts member states will select someone who was not a Spitzenkandidat.

"If I were the European Council, I would realise that this is a very self-confident European Parliament that has been elected," said the German socialist leader.

Meanwhile, the coalition building of a majority among the different groups in the European Parliament will likely factor into the European Commission presidency.

The point was driven home by Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens.

He told reporters a stable majority in the parliament that straddles a political programme endorsed by the next European Commission is also in the interest of the Council.

"If the Council wants to achieve anything, it needs a stable majority in the European Parliament and conversely, if we want to achieve anything in the parliament, we need to have a majority in the Council to work with us," he said.

EU six hold informal dinner on top jobs

Six EU leaders representing the three most-successful political blocs in the EU elections last month are meeting in Brussels on Friday to start talks on Europe's top jobs.

EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

Political bosses of the European Parliament's groups, hoping to assemble a majority coalition, are eyeing putting forward an political agenda - and possibly a name for the commission top job - before EU leaders gather in Brussels.

Macron's EU liberal candidate insults allies, resigns

Nathalie Loiseau, the French president's top choice to lead the new European Parliament liberal group known as Renew Europe, has returned to Paris after reportedly insulting the group's leading MEPs.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Spanish socialist leader strengthened by EU vote

The Spanish social democrats becomes the biggest national group among the European socialists, after winning the Spanish European election - which also sees a Catalan separatist in jail elected as MEP.

EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

Political bosses of the European Parliament's groups, hoping to assemble a majority coalition, are eyeing putting forward an political agenda - and possibly a name for the commission top job - before EU leaders gather in Brussels.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us