Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

Eastern states counter EU's secretive nomination process

Eastern Europe is chipping away at the secretive nomination process for new EU posts created under the Lisbon Treaty, with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves formally throwing his name into the ring on Thursday (12 November).

The president, whose name was put forward by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, joins a select few daring to be named as official candidates, as fears of failure and obligations to current jobs keep the process shrouded in secrecy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

  • European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek met the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves (right) this week (Photo: European Parliament)

Mr Ilves, a centrist Social Democrat and former MEP, says he is interested in both the European Council presidency post and that of the high representative for foreign affairs.

The former position will co-ordinate and 'drive forward' the work of the regular EU leaders' meetings, while the latter will become the EU's top diplomat and also a member of the European Commission – a beefed-up version of the job currently held by Javier Solana.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, is currently engaged in a sea of bilateral discussions with EU leaders in a frantic bid to find two candidates that all can agree on.

Announcing on Wednesday that leaders will choose the names over a dinner summit in Brussels on 19 November, Mr Reinfeldt said it was understandable that the current incumbents of national political jobs would want to keep their interest for the EU posts unofficial.

He likened an open job application to "sending the signal to the people of your country, I'm on my way to another job. On Monday I'm back again and I didn't get it but I still love you."

In a statement released by the office of Mr Ilves on Thursday, the president said: "As far as I am concerned, in the fall of 2006, I was elected president of the republic of Estonia for five years, and I will work to fulfill those duties."

But the statement later says that the election of the two new posts should be "based on the internal coherence of the European Union and the principle of equality," a thinly veiled hint that eastern Europe should get at least one of the positions.

Soviet-style secrecy

Former Lavian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, also a declared candidate for the European Council presidency job, said on Thursday that the process was being conducted with Soviet-style secrecy and contempt for the public.

The Baltic state's former leader attacked the EU for operating in "darkness and behind closed doors" and said it should "stop working like the former Soviet Union."

Together with Mr Ilves, and former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, the three form a small pocket of outliers from a larger group of former and current statesmen who wish to keep their names off the official candidates' list.

Current frontrunner for the presidency job, Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, along with his counterpart in the Netherlands, Peter Balkenende, and ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair have been mentioned as being in the running for the presidency post but have never formally declared an interest.

In a bid to add greater legitimacy to the whole process, Poland recently said that the candidates should hold job interviews in front of the 27 EU leaders.

"The approval procedure should be as transparent and democratic as possible. This will enhance the consensus surrounding those candidates who are eventually chosen," said a position paper put forward by the country.

Central and eastern European member states are also thought to have their eyes on a third post to be created under the Lisbon Treaty – the secretary general of the council – a bureaucratic but powerful post that will co-ordinate the day-to-day activities of member states in Brussels.

"When one thinks about lobbying, obviously if one country can occupy such an important role ... I think it could raise the image of such a country," Edit Rauh, the Hungarian under-secretary of state for social affairs, told EUobserver, referring to the bureaucratic post.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

Feature

How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

Former EUobserver investigations editor Peter Teffer has written a new book about how lobbying in the EU works. The EU's focus on the internal market offers corporate lobbyists a perfect means to forward their interests.

Investigation

G4S: the EU's preferred security contractor

The British multinational security company G4S lost its contract with the European Parliament in 2011 in a backlash from MEPs over alleged abuses in Israel. Today, they guard the parliament's main entrance and have become the EU's top security provider.

Exclusive

EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn owns 2,200 shares in Austria's largest electricity provider. Those shares have tripled in value since he first declared them in 2014. In January, the firm met his head of cabinet to discuss climate policy.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  2. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  3. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  4. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  5. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  6. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  7. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  8. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us