Manfred Weber should be next Commission President, says David McAllister

Written by Martin Banks on 29 May 2019 in News
News

Senior German MEP David McAllister says “it is clear” that, after the European elections on Sunday, his compatriot Manfred Weber “should be the next President of the European Commission."

Manfred Weber | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


The EPP member’s comments to this website come as the unofficial pistol sounded this week on the five-yearly rotation of the EU’s top jobs.

Weber, who led the EPP group in Parliament in the last term, is the official European People’s Party candidate to replace Jean-Claude Juncker in what is widely considered the EU’s top post.

He has mounted a high-profile campaign for the presidency but, having never held a senior government position, doubts are increasingly being cast on his credentials for such a job.


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However, McAllister, chair of the influential foreign affairs committee in the last Parliament, stood by Weber’s candidacy, saying, “The European Parliament has repeatedly affirmed to elect only a candidate who was running as “Spitzenkandidat” as new President of the European Commission.”

“The EPP group will once again be the strongest group in the European Parliament. There is no realistic stable majority possible without the EPP. We have a clear mandate to lead from the political centre.”

“For us, it is clear that Manfred Weber should become the next President of the Commission.”

So far, the declared candidates are Manfred Weber (EPP), Frans Timmermans (Socialists), Jan Zahradil (ACRE), Ska Keller (Greens) and Nico Cue (European Left).

“We [the EPP] have a clear mandate to lead from the political centre. For us, it is clear that Manfred Weber should become the next President of the Commission” David McAllister MEP

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner from Denmark, indicated she was also a candidate on Sunday while speaking in Parliament as the European elections results were announced.

As the post-elections race to succeed Juncker heats up, this website canvassed opinion of MEPs and others, both on his likely successor and also the rights and wrongs of the so-called Spitzenkandidat system.

The process, used in the last elections in 2014, is backed by most political groups but, it is felt, could still be bypassed by Member States in the search to fill a job that will help steer the EU over the next five years.

Austrian centre-right MEP Paul Ruebig said, "German federal Chancellor Angela Merkel only yesterday confirmed that she will stick to the Spitzenkandidat system. And I tell you it is no secret that she is quite influential in the European Council.”

“You also have to see this decision as a package, including the President of the Commission, the President of the parliament, the President of the European Council, the President of the ECB and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs - the EU Foreign Minister.”

He added, “There will be difficult negotiations, but the goal is clear. The people of Europe voted for the EPP with a clear majority and Manfred Weber is our Spitzenkandidat.”

Udo Bullmann, a German MEP who heads the Socialist group in Parliament, said he supports his party’s candidate, EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans, adding, “The chances of him being the next president are growing day by day.”

“To counteract populism the EU institutions need to look beyond themselves for well-known figures to head the Council and Commission at least” Edward McMillan-Scott, former Vice President of Parliament

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, who is co-chair of the Greens/EFA group, said, “I am not putting my money on anyone for the presidency, but Parliament must have a say on this whole process.”

Former UK Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, a former vice president of the Parliament, said, “I liked the Spitzenkanditaten process in principle as a democratic improvement, but it risks looking a bit like a Brussels love-in.”

“I watched a debate which exhibited a rather orthodox sameness. Heads of government have in the past blocked some inappropriate bidders for high office. I know and like all the known candidates, but none would be my first choice at a time of some upset as a result of the European elections.”

“To counteract populism the EU institutions need to look beyond themselves for well-known figures to head the Council and Commission at least,” he added.

David Harley, a former deputy secretary general of Parliament, said, “The EPP is not going to give up without a fight and there is a certain sense of entitlement in their position.”

“On election evening, Timmermans seemed to be teeing up a senior job for Vestager. Timmermans’ line about the need for a jointly-agreed progressive programme, content-driven this time, could attract support.”

Harley believes that Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former MEP who served as Danish PM from 2011 to 2015, could make a “reappearance”, adding, “There must be a woman for one or two of the top jobs.”

“The EPP is not going to give up without a fight and there is a certain sense of entitlement in their position” David Harley, former deputy secretary general of Parliament

He said, “Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Pedro Sánchez (the Spanish PM) are determined to show they are the new generation of EU leaders and deciders: new faces applying new methods.”

“The Teutonic plates are shifting and you have to ask whether German influence is on the wane as Angela Merkel bows out.”

Paul Taylor, of the Friends of Europe think tank, said, “The next Commission president will need to be someone who “gets it” about the new economy, geopolitics and climate change. With great respect to Michel Barnier, who has done an outstanding job in holding the EU together through the Brexit negotiations, and who definitely “gets it” about geopolitics, I’m not sure he’s the ideal person to lead us into the era of industry 4.0 or radical climate action.”

Taylor, a seasoned EU commentator, said, “Timmermans, Vestager or Kristalina Georgieva would be better qualified.”

More comment came from former European Commission advisor Fraser Cameron, director of the EU/Asia Centre in Brussels, who noted, “The allocation of top jobs always involves considerable horse trading, but this time round it will be even more complicated after the good performance of the Liberals and Greens.”

“It is difficult to see Weber making it if Macron remains opposed. It may take a few weeks to get the balance right.”

Denis MacShane, a former Europe Minister in the UK, said, “First, the European Parliament as a whole has to accept that the Spitzenkandidat system has not worked, however well-intentioned. The EPP got under 25 percent of the vote. Weber has no record as a minister at even regional level. He also covered for Viktor Orban for years.”

Looking at other possible candidates that have been mentioned in the last few days, he adds, “Frans Timmermans has excellent qualities, senior ministerial experience, and fluency in key EU languages, but will he fly with all the East European governments he has locked horns with over last five years?”

“Weber has no record as a minister at even regional level. He also covered for Viktor Orban for years” Denis MacShane, former UK Europe Minister

“ALDE put up a slate of Spitzenkandidats which was frankly taking the mickey. Obviously, there are many possible ‘non Scandidates.’ Ms Vesteger was no friend of social Europe or trade unions when [she was] a right-wing extreme economic liberal minister in Denmark.”

A senior Parliament source, who did not wish to be named, said, “In the 36 hours since the polls closed, the European political families have not rallied behind the Spitzenkandidat of the party that came first, the EPP, the way Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt did behind Juncker in 2014.”

“This time, there’s a bigger package deal to be negotiated, including the ECB presidency, which didn’t coincide with the Commission, Parliament and European Council appointments last time. The Germans will have to go through the motions of backing Manfred Weber, and perhaps let him try and fail to form a majority, but I definitely don’t see him getting the job.”

The source added, “The power struggle this time may not be between the Parliament and the Member States, as it was over the Spitzenkandidat system in 2014, nor among the European political parties over which party family gets the Commission presidency, as it was in 2004 when the EPP overruled Chirac and Schroeder, who supported Verhofstadt, and imposed Barroso.”

“That potentially opens the way for a Timmermans or a Vestager, or for a non-Spitzenkandidat - a Barnier or a Kristalina Georgieva [both EPP, neither a Spitzenkandidat].”

“I suspect a lot of leaders will resist any Franco-German carve-up. That improves the chances of candidates from small countries: perhaps a Finn at the ECB, a Dutchman at the European Council, a Spaniard as high rep for foreign policy, and Weber and perhaps Nathalie Loiseau or Timmermans sharing the EP presidency.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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