Today’s Movers & Shakers are about: Candidates spar for the European Commission presidency in the final debate before Parliament elections, the new president of the European Research Council, Bulgaria's corruption scandal, 'Apartment-Gate', continues with another ministerial resignation, results of the first round of Lithuania's Presidential elections, Brexit and more!
The Hemicycle in Brussels was transformed into a live television studio on Wednesday evening to host the final televised debate between the six lead candidates for European Commission presidency. Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE), Frans TIMMERMANS (S&D, NL), Jan ZAHRADIL (ECR, CZ), Margrethe VESTAGER (ALDE, DK), Nico CUÉ (GUE/NGL) and Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) went head-to-head on issues including climate change, the economy and populism.
TIMMERMANS used the opportunity to call for a left-wing coalition from the far-left, greens and liberals, one which could affect the status quo in Parliament and break the center right’s monopoly control of the EU leadership. With this, he stressed the need to act on climate change saying, “my offer is let's work together in the next five years so that we make sure that the next commission puts the climate crisis on the top of its agenda”. KELLER was also steadfast on the topic of climate change underlining that she wanted “another Europe”, one which “protects our planet”.
The EPP’s top candidate, WEBER, was at the centre of attacks from his fellow Spitzenkandidaten, particularly with regards to the issue of austerity. TIMMERMANS criticized WEBER for pushing austerity measures in response to the last financial crisis instead of supporting more moderate economic programs that had been offered by national capitals, including Lisbon.
VESTAGER came across as cautious in her first debate as a liberal top candidate and avoided concrete proposals as well as direct confrontation with the other debaters. On the topic of tax havens, VESTAGER won support from the crowd when she stated, “a tax haven is a place where everyone pays their taxes”.
Judging from the crowds’ reactions, TIMMERMANS, VESTAGER and KELLER were the most well received on the night, however opinion polls currently suggest WEBER is the favourite for the coveted position.
Communication (DG COMM)
Jivka PETKOVA has become Principal Advisor to the Director-General of DG COMM.
Informatics (DG DIGIT)
Thomas MICHLMAYR becomes the new Head of Unit C6 (Digital Workplace Engineering), replacing former Acting Head of Unit Franky KEPPENS.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE)
Céline IDIL is the new Head of Unit B3 (Trade Negotiations and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements), replacing former Acting Head of Unit Emmanuel BERCK.
Cabinet of Johannes Hahn
Hanna JAHNS moves from the position of Advisor to become the new Deputy Head of Cabinet, replacing Emma UDWIN who leaves the Cabinet. David MÜLLER replacing JAHNS as an Advisor in the Cabinet, with Sibylle BIKAR becoming a new Member of Cabinet. There has also been a slight reshuffling of role responsibilities between these three positions.
European Research Council (ERC)
Professor Mauro FERRARI has been appointed president and will replace current president, Jean-Pierre BOURGUIGNON on 1 January 2020.
European External Action Service
Silvio GONZATO has left the position of Director of Inter-institutional relations, policy coordination and public diplomacy, with Fernando ANDRESEN GUIMARAES becoming Acting Director.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Jeffrey SCHLAGENHAUF has been appointed to the role of Deputy Secretary-General.
European Central Securities Depositories Association (ECSDA)
Mathias PAPENFUß has been re-elected as Chair of the Board of Directors along with Brigitte DAURELLE and Indars AŠČUKS as its Vice-chairs and Georg ZINNER as Treasurer of the association.
Theresa MAY has said that she will finalise her plans on leaving the Prime Ministership after MPs have voted on the Second Reading of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, currently set to occur at the beginning of June. This commitment came after a meeting between the Prime Minister and the executive of the 1922 Committee, which represents Conservative backbench MPs. The expectation is that a Conservative leadership election will take place over Parliament’s summer recess, with a new Conservative leader set to enter office by the Conservative Party conference in September at the latest.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris JOHNSON announced his intention to run for the Conservative Party leadership when the Prime Minister steps down. Other candidates who’ve declared their intention to fill the vacancy are International Development Secretary Rory STEWART and former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther MCVEY.
Talks between the Conservative and Labour parties aimed at finding a joint solution to the Brexit issue appear close to breaking up without a deal being reached. The parties were unable to come to an agreement, with Labour’s demands for a permanent customs union being rejected by the government, as was the expectation that any deal reached with the government would contain provisions to prevent the next Conservative leader from changing them.
Agriculture, food and forestry minister Roumen POROZHANOV has resigned due to the ongoing scandal involving the purchases of luxury properties and the building of guest houses with EU aid for private use. Dessislava TANEVA, formerly head of the National Assembly committee on agriculture and food and Agriculture Minister between 2014 and 2017, will replace him in the position.
This is the latest in a string of ministerial resignations linked to a corruption scandal that has been dubbed ‘Apartment-Gate’.
French President Emmanuel MACRON and Xavier BETTEL, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, criticised the Spitzenkandidat process, which has been the status quo for choosing the candidate for the European Commission presidency, while speaking at a fringe event at the EU’s summit on the Future of Europe. President MACRON said that he didn’t feel bound by the process while BETTEL stated that voters in Luxembourg did not know who the lead candidates were, leaving the option open that both may support another candidate for the Commission Presidency. MACRON also called on the EU to do more on climate change, security and growth following the European elections.
Weeks before the European Parliament elections, Prime Minister Alexis TSIPRAS of Syriza party (GUE/NGL) won a confidence vote on Friday, the fifth that he has faced since becoming Prime Minister in 2015. TSIPRAS’ government, whose term ends in October, is trailing the opposition New Democracy (EPP) party in opinion polls.
In the first round of Sunday’s Presidential elections, Independent Gitanas NAUSĖDA and Ingrida ŠIMONYTĖ, who is supported by the Homeland Union (EPP), finished in the top two positions and advance to the run-off, to be held on the 26 May at the same time as the European Parliament elections. In a close race, ŠIMONYTĖ received 31.2% of the vote, while NAUSĖDA received 30.9%. The winner will succeed Dalia GRYBAUSKAITĖ, who comes to the end of her second and final term in July.
Incumbent Prime Minister Saulius SKVERNELIS finished in a distant third with 19.3% of the vote. On election night, he announced his intention to stand down from the premiership in July.