Who will be the next President of the European Commission?
With the 2014 European elections rapidly approaching, the speculation over who will occupy the EU’s top positions: President of the EU Council, President of the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also increases.
Amid the rumours a clear fact has been established on 6 November, with the announcement of the Party of European Socialists (PES) that confirmed Mr Martin Schulz as ‘candidate designate’ for Commission President.
Currently acting as President of the European Parliament, Mr Schultz is supported by 19 of the 31 full member parties of the PES.
Yet Mr Schulz’s nomination is already creating waves. On 4 November, the British ‘Guardian Newspaper’ reported that British PM, Mr David Cameron is preparing to launch a campaign to block Mr Schulz from becoming the next Commission President.
The article states that Mr Cameron fears that Mr Schulz’s appointment could complicate his “plans to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership by the end of 2017. While Mr Cameron has yet to name an alternative candidate, a cabinet source indicates that he would support Irish PM, Enda Kenny.
Choosing the next Commission President is slightly similar to choosing a Pope.
Officially, the selection process is governed by article 17.7 of the Treaty on European Union. Accordingly, the European Council votes on a nominee for the post by a qualified majority, taking into consideration the latest European elections.
Then the proposal moves to the European Parliament, who has to approve or veto the Council’s appointment by an absolute majority.
In reality the process is not as simple, as political battles and coalitions building in the Council are parts of the selection process. That is particularly true when taking into consideration the fact that every Member State has the right to veto a candidate.
Looking at the selection process of past Presidents illustrates that:
- The European Parliament was very critical to the nomination of the current President, Jose Manual Barroso, which was considered to take place behind closed doors.
- Jacques Delors, a French Socialist, was chosen following a Franco-British disagreement over Claude Cheysson (also French Socialist).
- Romano Prodi, an Italian Christian Democrat, was backed by a coalition of thirteen states against the Franco-German preference for Guy Verhofstadt (Belgian Liberal).
While it is too early to assess Mr Schulz’s chances, few factors play on his behalf;
First, Mr Schulz was endorsed by the German Socialists (SPD) as the official candidate for the post. As I published in my Polish blog, one of the terms of negotiating a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD involves Ms Merkel’s support to Mr Schulz’s candidacy.
Second, it would be astonishing if Germany weights its support on another, non-German candidate.
According to the EU Treaty, the identity of the next EU leaders must reflect the results of the EU elections. Based on this logic, Mr Schulz would have the post if the Socialists win a majority. Then again, he would be facing far more obstacles than Mr Cameron if the Eurosceptics are the grand winners…
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
November 2013 – January 2014: European Greens party’s open online primary in which two figureheads for campaign are elected
December 2013:: ALDE pre-summit meeting to discuss commission presidency candidate(s)
February 2014: PES congress electing the candidate and adopting a common campaign manifesto
March 2014: EPP (Centre-Right) Congress in Dublin
22-25 May 2014: European parliament elections in all 28 member states