Wednesday

18th Jan 2017

EP top job battle risks getting ugly

The two biggest European Parliament (EP) political groups will present their candidates for the next president in December, amid rifts over who will get the top post when, and if, the incumbent, Martin Schulz, steps down.

The centre-left S&D, Schulz's group, will present their candidate on 8 December, while the centre-right EPP will do the same on 14 December.

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.

The race is already stirring tension amid rumour that Schulz intends to stay on despite a power-sharing deal between the two groups.

In 2014 they signed an agreement that Schulz would cede his post to an EPP successor.

But that deal now appears to be unraveling, with the centre-left accusing the EPP of not holding up its terms and of vying to lead all three EU institutions. The EPP already has Donald Tusk in the European Council, representing member states, and Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission.

Italian MEP Gianni Pittella, who leads the socialist group, told reporters in Strasbourg, that Schulz needs to remain parliament president in January.

"We are in favour of Martin Schulz because he safeguards an important role for the parliament at a key moment to make sure that the European Parliament role is not undermined," he said.

Pittella has also accused the EPP of reneging on the deal after Tusk landed the top job at the European Council.

"It was agreed that the presidency of the European Council would go to the Socialist forces. This not being the case, andin the event that the current president of the European Parliament should not be reconfirmed, the imbalance would be even more apparent," he said in a 13-page strategy paper that outlines the group's broad policy direction, published on the Politico website.

Two parliament sources told this website that Pittella is also afraid of losing his own job if Schulz does not carry on as president. Schulz was previously the S&D group leader and could possibly take up the post again.

Another source said the 2014 agreement didn't include giving the socialists the presidency of the European Council as stated by Pittella.

Juncker backs Schulz

Juncker has also endorsed Schulz for a third term.

Despite vying for the EU commission presidency post in 2014, the two men are close and often dine together, along with other group leaders and with commission vice president Frans Timmermans.

Meanwhile, other moves are being made to limit Schulz's grip on the 751-seat assembly.

The British conservative MEP leader Ashley Fox is pushing to limit the European parliament president to two terms.

Last week in the parliament's constitutional affairs committee, he introduced an amendment that would block Schulz from running a third 2.5-year term. Some 50 MEPs from across political groups, excluding the socialists and the Europe of Nations and Freedom party, signed it.

It will likely go to a plenary vote in December, around the same time candidates are being officially selected.

The candidates

A handful of possible candidates from the centre-right is already emerging.

Among them is French MEP Alain Lamassoure, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, and former EU commissioner Antonio Tajani. None of them figure EPP leader Manfred Weber who, at the age of 44, is seen as too young and whose political trajectory may instead take him to Germany.

News in Brief

  1. Outgoing US vice-president warns Europe on Russia
  2. German far-right party calls for end to WWII guilt
  3. First Chinese freight train arrives in Europe
  4. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister
  5. Juncker has 'slight doubts' on his group's convention idea
  6. EU parliament spat changes nothing, says Juncker
  7. German elections likely on 24 September
  8. Maltese PM announces plan for Brexit summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey