Les Jeux sont faits?

by Thomas Krings
Ahead of the major vote tomorrow, we look back at the Strasbourg session that took place two weeks ago and remind where we stand.

Ahead of the major vote tomorrow, we look back at the Strasbourg session that took place two weeks ago and remind where we stand.

If anyone was still wondering about how Europe works – this was the week to watch it!

To the great frustration of the newly elected European Parliament, certainly of EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber, the Heads of State and Governement very quickly threw the whole Spitzenkandidaten process (by which the lead candidate of the party with the largest number of votes at the European Parliament was to become Commission president) out of the window. President Macron had continuously emphasised that no wording related to a „Spitzenkandidat-Process“ exists in the Treaties.

To a large extent, the EP(P)! contributed to the decison by the European Summitteers itself: If the MEP had gathered behind the Spitzenkandidat with the best prospect to be elected Commission President, e.g. Ms Vestager, the „Spitzenkandidat-Approach“ could have become installed as a permanent standard practice after all future EP elections. Looking through various examples, including the election results in Luxembourg, Estonia or the recent elections to the State Parliament in Bremen in Germany, it is obvious that the one who could obtain a majority gets the top executive job and not the one who runs the biggest party. Democratic, political culture has it that the strongest political group in a Parliament gets the Speaker’s/President’s job, not necessarily the top job of the executive branch.

Even though the Visegrad states (PL, HU, SK, CZ) and Italy are blamed for stubbornly blocking Weber, the support of the other states was not enormous. As a result, all electoral candidates were eliminated – leaving the big question of whom to nominate.

After a failed first summit and a second last-minute one before the European Parliament elections of their own President, the Heads of State did come to a decision carried by all. To the big surprise of many, in particular German circles, Germany‘s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen sprun up as a candidate for Commission President, and a second woman – Christine Lagarde –  was nominated  to head the European Central Bank. Ursula von der Leyen was clearly a preference of French President Emmanuel Macron who underlined in the press conference after the nominatoins that he is very happy that all candidates for the top jobs are francophones!

The European Parliament still has to approve Ursula von der Leyen and is far from being happy. A lot of MEPs, among them many German Social-Democrats who are in government with Angela Merkel’s Christian-Democrat party, came out with the most extraordinary story that they will not vote for Ms von der Leyen on 16 July in Strasbourg.

Looking at the numbers, it is far from self-evident that Ms von der Leyen will be elected: If all 182 EPP MEPs and 108 liberal RE MEPs vote for Ms von der Leyen, she will still miss 86 votes in order to reach the majority of 376 votes. Therefore, a lot of work has still to be done. So “vdL’s” camp will look first and foremost at the 152 S&D MEPs and the 74 Green MEPs. MEP Sven Giegold, who speaks for the 21 German Green MEPs, expressed that he is “very sceptical” as to Ms von der Leyen, but the Greens will wait until they have heard more about her views concerning EU policies, he had said. It has not been confirmed that the 16 German “rebel” S&D MEPs are a bit isolated in their group, but it looks like that. Many fellow non-German S&D colleagues have difficulties to understand why their German colleagues do not support a German female candidate of a political party with which they form a coalition to run the country. The S&D group is now chaired by Ms Garcia Perez from Spain.

As to organizing themselves within the EP, the MEPs and the leadership of their respective political groups have reached cruising speed surprisingly quickly: They have elected Italian S&D MEP, David Sassoli as their new President and have also elected  the 14 Vice-Presidents, as well as the 5 Quaestors, who deal with administratrive matters that affect the MEPs themselves, in only 2 rounds each. In fact for the quaestors even one round was enough.

The 14 EP Vice-Presidents are:

  • Mairead McGUINNESS (EPP, IE)
  • Pedro SILVA PEREIRA (S&D, PT)
  • Rainer WIELAND (EPP, DE)
  • Katarina BARLEY (S&D, DE)
  • Othmar KARAS (EPP, AT)
  • Ewa Bożena KOPACZ (EPP, PL)
  • Klara DOBREV (S&D, HU)
  • Dita CHARANZOVÁ (Renew Europe, CZ)
  • Nicola BEER (Renew Europe, DE)
  • Lívia JÁRÓKA (EPP, HU)
  • Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA, FI)
  • Marcel KOLAJA (Greens/EFA, CZ)
  • Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS (GUE/NGL, EL)
  • Fabio Massimo CASTALDO (NI, IT)

The five EP Quaestors are:

  • Anne SANDER (EPP, FR)
  • Monika BENOVÁ (S&D, SK)
  • David CASA (EPP, MT)
  • Gilles BOYER (Renew Europe, FR)
  • Karol KARSKI (ECR, PL)

The deal has it, that Manfred Weber is supposed to become the next EP President in 2,5 years for the second half of the five-year mandate. History seems to repeat itself: we do all remember Martin Schulz who took off as the S&D Spitzenkandidate for the Commission top-job and who “ended” again as the President of the European Parliament, the only difference being that he took the first term last time …Affaire à suivre!

Image source: https://www.bmvg.de/de/presse © Bundeswehr/Jane Hannemann