European Parliament may thwart EU top jobs nominees, say senior MEPs

Some senior MEPs have warned that Parliament may block the nominees for the EU’s four top jobs.
Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

03 Jul 2019

It comes after three days of talks ended on Tuesday with nominations for the Commission presidency and three other senior posts.

The Greens in Parliament immediately branded the result of this week’s protracted EU summit as “grotesque,” adding “This backroom stitch-up after days of talks satisfies no one but party power games.”

A statement warned, “There is no reason why we should vote in favour of the council package.”


MEPs are due to vote on the nominations at a plenary in the week starting 15 July. If they veto the package, EU leaders will have to come forward with new nominees.

The attack comes after EU leaders put forward their nominations for the bloc's top jobs, with a woman for the first time proposed as European Commission chief.

The surprise choice of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker came after the main frontrunners were rejected.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been nominated as the first woman to head the European Central Bank (ECB).

“This backroom stitch-up after days of talks is grotesque; it satisfies no one but party power games” Ska Keller MEP

Belgian liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel is nominated to replace European Council President Donald Tusk, while Spain's Josep Borrell is proposed as foreign policy chief.

The fifth key role - President of the European Parliament - is to be chosen on Wednesday.

Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, both EU Commissioners at present, have been nominated for highest-ranking Vice-Presidents in the Commission.

However, there were concerns that Parliament's own contest for the main job - the "Spitzenkandidaten" (lead candidates) process - had been cast aside.

Neither the winner of that process, German MEP Manfred Weber, nor other frontrunners were selected by EU leaders.

There was also surprise that four of the main jobs had gone to Western Europeans, with no nominations from Eastern Europe.

The announcement follows days of difficult negotiations.EU leaders were tasked with nominating five people for the top jobs.

“It is unacceptable that populist governments represented in the Council rule out the best candidate only because he has stood up for the rule of law and for our shared European values” S&D Group leader Iratxe García

Most of the roles must be ratified by the Parliament.

Reaction was swift, with Ska Keller, the Greens co leader, saying, “The deal agreed in the Council fails to respect the lead candidate process and the results of the European elections.”

“This backroom stitch-up after days of talks is grotesque it satisfies no one but party power games. After such a high turnout in the European elections and a real mandate for change, this is not what European citizens deserve.”

“We don’t need the smallest common denominator satisfying personal interest and party politics. We need a dynamic for political change in Europe and this is not offered by this package."

Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts added, “The Parliament must decide on its presidency independently from European governments and not leave this down to a poorly cooked-up compromise in the Council.”

“That's why we stand firmly behind Keller, our European Parliament presidential candidate. The Parliament should not let the Council dictate its presidency.”

“We are fighting for a Parliamentary democracy. We need a fairer, more social and environmentally-friendly Europe that works for citizens and we will fight to ensure that the EU works to achieve this over the next five years.”

S&D Group leader Iratxe García said, “This proposal is deeply disappointing for us. Our group has remained firm in the defence of European democracy and the leading candidate or Spitzenkandidat process, and we don’t want it to die.”

“We have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions. A perfect gender balance. I am really happy about it” Donald Tusk

“It is unacceptable that populist governments represented in the Council rule out the best candidate only because he has stood up for the rule of law and for our shared European values.”

Further comment came from Belgian deputy Guy Verhofstadt, who congratulated Michel, wished him “good luck” and tweeting: “Avec lui, la Belgique est à la place qu’elle mérite : dans le cockpit de l’Union européenne.”

Among current EU leaders, council president Donald Tusk said, “We have agreed the whole package before the first session of the European Parliament.”

He said, “First and foremost, we have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions. A perfect gender balance. I am really happy about it. After all Europe is a woman. I think that it was worth waiting for such an outcome.”

He said Germany had abstained on Von der Leyen's nomination over coalition issues but pointed out that Chancellor Angela Merkel herself had backed her.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the nominations were "the fruit of a deep Franco-German entente", adding, "Von der Leyen is a very good candidate and a very good choice to head the European Commission.”

He said that Lagarde's "capacities and competences totally qualified her" for the ECB.

Macron said, “The five personalities appointed today have always been distinguished by their extremely strong commitment to Europe. This profound renewal reflects the new political balances that emerged following the European elections. After 48 hours of working with my European partners, we have an agreement. The new team at the helm of Europe is strong and experienced.”

“For the first time, two women will lead the Commission and the Central Bank. I welcome that.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, on the selection of Von der Leyen, said, "We faced a great task. We had to decide who would stand in the leadership of the European institutions. From Hungary’s perspective, it was a question of whether the people who take up those leadership positions are people who respect Hungary and understand Central Europe’s history as well as understand the importance of Europe’s Christian culture.”

Regarding the candidacy of Manfred Weber and EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans, Orban said the so-called Visegrád Four succeeded in blocking them because they failed a litmus test.

“We took up a position in important, substantive questions about these personnel decisions. We held that line as we said we would and the kind of people who will likely continue good policies will end up in the EU leadership.”

On his appointment, Charles Michel said, “To be appointed Council President is a great responsibility and a task I will fulfil with commitment.”

“A united Europe with respect for national diversity is my objective. Solidarity, freedom and mutual respect are the core of the European Union. I will uphold those values.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, “I am glad that we have come to a well-balanced package. Von der Leyen is a strong choice and the experience of Charles Michel will be of great value as president.”

Read the most recent articles written by Martin Banks - European Parliament mourns loss of former MEP and Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume


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