Monday

21st Jan 2019

Focus

Merkel: Voters elect next commission chief 'in principle'

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

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.

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

"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.

EUobserved

After the EP vote – working the camembert

Righteous declarations, posturing, a measured amount of fence-sitting and a hefty dose of speculation is to be expected after the EP results come in.

Analysis

Power struggle looms after EU vote

In just over three week's time the European elections will be over but a new process will have just begun – an immense power struggle between the EU  institutions.

Agenda

Post-election wrangling kicks off this WEEK

EU leaders will meet in Brussels Tuesday to discuss the outcome of the EU and Ukrainian elections, kicking off the nomination process of the next European Commission chief.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

News in Brief

  1. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  2. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  3. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack
  4. 'Don't look for answers to Brussels', EU tells UK
  5. Germany warns UK not to 'misuse' EU patience on Brexit
  6. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  7. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  8. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us