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26th Jan 2020

EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

  • Green co-chair Philippe Lamberts, centre-right chief Manfred Weber and liberal leader Guy Verhofsadt are among the ones negotiating the parliament's agenda (Photo: European Parliament)

The four political groups in talks to assemble some form of majority coalition in the European Parliament want to come up with an agenda for the next five years and a possible name for the EU commission president by next Wednesday (19 June), the eve of when EU leaders gather in Brussels for a summit.

MEPs from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the socialists (S&D), liberals (Alde, now Renew Europe) and greens held talks on Thursday (13 June) on a variety of issues in five working groups ranging from climate change through rule of law, to trade.

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The parliament wants to make sure it sets the agenda for the EU for the next five years. But meanwhile EU leaders are also working on a so-called "strategic agenda" for the years to come – highlighting the ever-present tension between the EU parliament and heads of state and governments.

Political group leaders also met and will meet again on Monday evening (17 June) to "take stock of the progress and set out what still needs to be done", a parliament source said.

On Tuesday evening, the so-called conference of presidents - the party group leaders and parliament president Antonio Tajani - will meet to finalise the package the parliament wants to push, the agenda and possibly a common nominee for the EU commission presidency.

The plan is to then hand that package to EU council president Donald Tusk, who is leading the heads of state and government efforts to find a new commission president, and to find candidates for other top EU jobs.

However, it is unclear whether the parties will be able to agree on a candidate for the commission top position.

The EPP emerged bruised from the May EU elections, but remains the largest political party, pushing its group leader and Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber for the position.

Liberals, courting France's president Emmanuel Macron, have been reluctant to commit to the lead candidate process, that aims to force the biggest party's candidate into the EU executive's top.

The EPP is adamant it wants to hold onto the commission presidency, currently occupied by EPP veteran Jean-Claude Juncker, and the centre-right group strongly backed Weber at their leadership vote after the election.

Nevertheless, the other groups will have a "vested interest" to also attach a name their political agenda, a source said.

"You will make the value of this document a lot stronger if you have a person committed to implementing it," the source added.

Coming up with single candidate from the parliament would put pressure on the EU heads of governments, making it more difficult to reject the person that came out on top of the recently-elected parliament's coalition talks.

"We cannot tell people in an election campaign that they have a say in who will be the commission president, and afterwards we say 'sorry, we do it the other way around, with the leaders picking the person'. That will have a very bad impact on the EU," outgoing German political veteran MEP Elmar Brok told journalists on Friday (14 June).

Group contests

Leadership competitions in the socialist and, to a lesser extent, in the liberal group, inject some uncertainty in the process.

In the socialist group, the second largest faction in the parliament, German MEP Udo Bullmann and Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia will face off on Tuesday.

The ballot is secret, and the momentum behind the Spanish leftist, which has the largest delegation in the group, and the desire to promote a female candidate, might swing votes towards Garcia.

But as the group leader, Bullman is taking part in the negotiations.

The day after, the liberal group, renamed 'Renew Europe' this week, will also pick a new leader.

Candidates can submit their bid until Monday, and so far Dutch MEP Sophie in' t Veld and Swedish MEP Fredrick Federley have put themselves forward, while France's Nathalie Loiseau dropped out after a gaffe scandal.

According to several sources, Romania's former prime minister and ex-commissioner Dacian Ciolos could also throw in his hat into the race. Ciolos led a new liberal party into the parliament in the May election.

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

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.

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It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Agenda

Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK

A summit in Belgian capital this week will host heads of government and state to discuss top EU institutional posts. But before they meet, the jockeying for the Commission presidency will have already started among the European political groups.

Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament

With the current Socialist & Democrats group leader, Germany's Udo Bullman pulling out of the race, Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia is likely to become the next leader of the second biggest group in the European Parliament.

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