Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

EU chief stepping down early to seek election as MEP

Listen to article

EU Council president Charles Michel has said he will step down early from his job in order to run in European Parliament elections in June.

"If I am elected, I will take the oath. I will then exercise my duties as president of the European Council until I take the oath as a member of the European Parliament in mid-July," he said in an interview with Belgian media late on Saturday (6 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"As a European leader, I want to be accountable for my work over the past four years, play an active role in the European debate and help promote the Europe 2030 project. This will require reforms. I want to be part of those builders and continue to serve the European project where I can be useful," he told the De Standaard, La Libre, and Le Soir newspapers.

Europe 2030 refers to EU ambitions to launch a new wave of enlargement by the end of the decade, bringing in some Western Balkan and former Soviet states.

Michel would normally have ended his tenure in November.

His surprise announcement comes amid EU divisions on funding Ukraine in its defence against Russia and on how to handle the Gaza war.

It also means that Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán could temporarily take over Michel's EU-chairman role until a long-term successor is found, because Hungary will hold the EU's rotating presidency from July to December.

And that could cause a political mess, given that the far-right populist Orbán is an EU pariah over his abuse of rule-of-law at home and his close ties to Russia.

But Michel was unapologetic about his decision. "That is democracy," he said,

"There are still six months before the first session of the new European Parliament. So no one can be surprised. My successor will be elected at the end of June or beginning of July. The second semester of 2024 is in any case a period of political transition, including in the [European] Commission," he added.

Michel will run in the elections as a candidate for his liberal Reformist Movement (MR) party.

When asked if he had ambitions to become Belgium's next EU commissioner or to be the next EU Parliament president, he said: "It doesn't work that way. I want to serve where I can be useful. I have no other ambitions".

The EU's top jobs are normally decided via informal negotiations after the elections.

But Michel's announcement will put pressure on other aspirants to declare their intentions earlier — including EU Commission president Ursula von Der Leyen, who is expected to seek a second term.

Michel's move also poses questions for the future of Belgium's current EU commissioner, Didier Reynders, who is currently in charge of the justice portfolio and who was understood to also plump for another five years in the commission's Berlaymont HQ.

"He [Reynders] wants to remain active in Europe in some way," Michel said.

Analysis

Credibility of EU's Michel on line in Caucasus flare-up

The progress, publicly-touted, by EU Council president Charles Michel's puts his credibility on the line when it comes to forging a lasting Azeri-Armenian peace. And it's a test of the EU's capacity as a credible mediator in its own backyard.

Analysis

Almost 20 names in running for EU top jobs

With four months until the European Parliament elections, there are already some 20 names in the hat for the ensuing reshuffle of EU top jobs.

Investigation

Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR

Launching her campaign for a second EU Commission president mandate, Ursula von der Leyen rejected collaboration with extremist parties but left the door open to working with rightwing ECR — which may go from fifth to third-largest party in June.

Investigation

Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line

In a fractious parliamentary vote, the level of party discipline often decides the fate of legislation. Party discipline among nationalists and far-right MEPs is the weakest, something potentially significant after the June elections. Data by Novaya Gazeta Europe and EUobserver.

Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR

Launching her campaign for a second EU Commission president mandate, Ursula von der Leyen rejected collaboration with extremist parties but left the door open to working with rightwing ECR — which may go from fifth to third-largest party in June.

Latest News

  1. Macron on Western boots in Ukraine: What he really meant
  2. Amazon lobbyists banned from EU Parliament
  3. MEPs adopt new transparency rules for political ads
  4. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  5. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  6. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  7. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  8. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us