26th Oct 2016


Merkel: Voters elect next commission chief 'in principle'

  • Merkel and the Spitzenkandidaten, Martin Schulz (l) and Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday (22 May) made conciliatory gestures towards the European Parliament on the choice of the next commission president after Sunday's EU elections.

In an interview with Passauer Neue Presse, Merkel said that voters in the EU elections can bring their contribution to furthering the European project.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"A clear qualitative improvement is that, in principle, the Commission president gets elected," she said.

This represents a slight change in Merkel's stance.

She was never a fan of the idea that one of the six top candidates put forward by the main political parties in the European Parliament would become commission president after the EU vote.

The chancellor has in the past noted that the treaty only says that EU leaders must take the results of the election into account when making a nomination for the post, and that there is "no automaticity" between top candidates and the election result.

But after a weeks of pan-European campaigning and nine TV debates, the 'Spitzenkandidaten' are a reality leaders are finding more difficult to ignore.

According to one EU diplomat, "the fact that we have top candidates has created certain dynamics".

The threat of an institutional blockage is a possibility, with the European Parliament able to veto the nominee put forward by the leaders.

In her interview, Merkel said that member states and the European Parliament "have to work closely together and will do so".

The German chancellor is also in the awkward position of being in a governing coalition with the Social Democrats - political home to the centre-left candidate (Martin Schulz) for the commission post.

If the European Social Democrats were to win the elections, Merkel would need to endorse Schulz and lose the German commissioner post, traditionally taken by one of her centre-right party members.

Polls however suggest a close result with the centre-right slightly ahead but not gaining enough seats to have a majority, with a German-style grand coalition the most likely outcome.

No white smoke

EU leaders will meet on Tuesday to take stock of the result and kick off negotiations with the Parliament on finding a candidate that can muster a majority both in the Council - where member states are represented - and in the new legislature.

But any hopes to have a name emerge already next week would be misplaced, EU diplomats say.

"There will be no names discussed, don't expect any white smoke come out of the council," one source quipped, in reference to the Pope election process.

Instead, the council chief, Herman Van Rompuy, is expected to receive a mandate from the EU leaders to start negotiations with the European Parliament and member states on finding a candidate who can get a majority in both camps.

But another EU diplomat said there could be corridor talks among leaders, with the most obvious question being if Schulz or Juncker or an 'outside candidate' should get the job.

One line of reasoning is that if a female candidate is put forward - for instance Denmark's Socialist PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt or the current chief of the International Monetary Fund, the centre-right Christine Lagarde of France - the European Parliament would have a hard time vetoing them after having repeatedly asked for female candidates.

For his part, outgoing council chief Van Rompuy, a skilled Belgian negotiator, is seen as having his most difficult negotiation ahead.

"This will be his legacy, much more difficult than the EU budget negotiations" one EU diplomat says.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion