Macron and Bettel denounce Spitzenkandidat system

French President Emmanuel Macron and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel have criticised the so-called ‘Spitzenkandidat’ method for selecting the next European Commission President.

Emmanuel Macron and Xavier Bettel | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 May 2019

Both were speaking in the margins of the EU’s summit on the Future in Europe on Thursday in Sibiu, Romania.

Parliament’s main political groups have backed the Spitzenkandidat method, saying they expect all Member States to also stand by it.

According to the Spitzenkandidat system, the political group that emerges with a majority from the elections on 23-26 May has the right to propose a candidate for the presidency and this must be “taken into consideration” in deciding the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker.


He was elected President of the Commission under the same process five years ago.

The EPP is, according to polls, set to once again be the largest grouping and its candidate is German MEP Manfred Weber who has launched a high-profile campaign to succeed Juncker.

But Macron, speaking on Thursday, said he did not “feel bound at all by the principle of the Spitzenkandidat,” while Bettel said voters in Luxembourg “have no clue who’s the Spitzenkandidat.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also criticised the European People’s Party candidate, saying that the Commission needs a President who supports “solidarity, democracy, and social cohesion ... This President is not Weber.”

“In fifteen days, some 400 million Europeans will choose between a project to build Europe further or a project to destroy, deconstruct Europe and return to nationalism” Emmanuel Macron

Macron, after the summit, also called for the EU to focus more on climate, security and growth once the European Parliament elections have concluded.

Macron said, “In 15 days, some 400 million Europeans will choose between a project to build Europe further or a project to destroy, deconstruct Europe and return to nationalism,” adding, “We need to move faster now and with more determination on European renaissance.”

“Climate, protection of borders and a model of growth, a social model … is what I really want for the coming years,” he said.

UK Prime MinisterTheresa May did not attend the event but UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the meeting was “an opportunity for us to consider the sustainable future relationship between the UK and the EU.”

He said, “We, the UK and the EU, face shared challenges, with shared values, but post-Brexit will do so from a different starting point in which the UK is not part of the EU, but it remains a part of Europe.”

“Sibiu reinforces our shared analysis of the global challenges ahead. And I look forward to working with you as the UK continues to be an active partner in meeting those challenges head on,” he added.

The EU27 leaders issued a common Sibiu Declaration, listing ten commitments for the EU’s future agenda.

They stated, “The Union of today is stronger than that of yesterday and we want to continue to build its strength for tomorrow. This is our commitment for the future generations. This is the spirit of Sibiu and of a new Union at 27, ready to embrace its future as one.”

European Council president Donald Tusk, who was among the summiteers, also called for a special summit on 28 May for EU leaders to “start the process to nominate the next leaders of the EU institutions.”

He said the process “should be swift, effective and in accordance with our Treaties,” adding, “If consensus proves difficult, I will not shy away from putting these decisions to a vote in June.”

The summit’s formal declaration, however, did not mention ‘sustainable Europe’, nor biodiversity collapse, and relegates climate change to an afterthought.

Green campaigners were angry that the post-summit press statements did not mention sustainability, biodiversity or climate change once “whilst repeating ‘unity’ seven times.”

Friends of the Earth Europe was incensed that Juncker said that “there was no urgent decision to take”, a mere “four days after the most comprehensive scientific warning of biodiversity collapse.”

The environmental network said that EU leaders were “out of touch with citizens’ concerns and reality” and called for “transformational change to tackle climate and ecological breakdown and inequality and restore purpose to European cooperation.”

“The summit conclusions represent a reprehensible weakening from EU statements ahead of the summit, in which sustainability was more explicit”, said Jagoda Munic, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe.

Munic said, “European leaders have failed to even mention climate action and sustainability in their concluding statements about the future of Europe - suggesting they are not prioritising citizens’ concerns or reality.”

"Today’s display of European unity is a good thing in the face of clarion voices of division, but it must be the precursor to bold, urgent and transformational change for the benefit of all people and our planet.”

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