Thursday

26th Apr 2018

Spitzenkandidat system here to stay, MEPs warn capitals

MEPs of the constitutional affairs committee on Tuesday (23 January) formally began the battle with the national governments over who will get to decide the next president of the European Commission.

In a text adopted by 17 MEPs in favour, and six against, the committee said that the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process "is a principle that cannot be overturned".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

MEPs also included a thinly-veiled threat, saying the parliament "will be ready to reject any candidate in the investiture procedure of the commission president who was not appointed as a Spitzenkandidat in the run-up to the European elections" of May 2019.

The process was first applied at the previous European Parliament elections in 2014, when the major political groups each selected a lead candidate – 'Spitzenkandidat' in German.

They said that whichever party wins the elections, its Spitzenkandidat should become the new president of the commission, which is the EU's executive body.

The centre-right European People's Party emerged from that election as the largest group, and its candidate, former Luxembourgish prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, became president of the commission.

The process was something of an institutional power grab.

Previously, the commission chief would be chosen by the leaders of Europe's governments, in particular those leading the biggest member states.

Lisbon treaty changes

The Lisbon treaty however said the member states should take the parliamentary election result "into account" when nominating a candidate.

The parliament formally cannot propose a candidate for commission president, but does have the power to approve or reject him or her.

In Tuesday's text, MEPs reminded EU leaders that the commission president candidate needs to be approved by a majority in the EU parliament.

The text, which is about a framework agreement on relations between the EU parliament and commission, would lay down some rules for when members of the current commission want to become the Spitzenkandidat.

The agreement would say that commission members can stand as Spitzenkandidat, but that they would not be allowed to use "the human or material resources of the commission for activities linked to the electoral campaign".

MEPs also said that "the political legitimacy of the commission would be strengthened further, if more elected members of the European Parliament were nominated as members of the commission".

The file will now move to the plenary in Strasbourg, and is scheduled for a vote on 7 February.

On 23 February, EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the issue, as well as the composition of the EU parliament after the 2019 elections.

The commission will before that meeting present a "meaningful, substantial contribution" to the debate on the Spitzenkandidaten issue, said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas on Monday.

"The view of the commission is that the Spitzenkandidat system was a success," said Schinas.

Magazine

The spitzenkandidaten coup

The year 2014 shall go down as the date the European Parliament snatched away the right to nominate a European Commission president from national governments.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ