Udo Bullman, interim leader of Parliament’s S&D group, has thrown his group’s support behind a controversial system for electing the next European Commission President.
Parliament has signalled that it is ready to reject any candidate for Commission President who is not nominated as a lead candidate (Spitzenkandidat) ahead of the 2019 EU elections.
Under plans already adopted at committee stage, the Parliament will shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs when the UK leaves the EU and a number of MEPs should be elected through transnational electoral lists comprising the entire EU territory.
On Wednesday the plenary of the European Parliament will decide on its composition after Brexit. A controversy has emerged especially on whether some of the 73 British seats should be used for the introduction of transnational lists.
Speaking in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Bullman said the so-called Spitzenkandidat system would bring “added value for European democracy” in that the president will emerge from one of the two biggest political families.
The German member told reporters, “This is something we approve and we will support this.”
He added, “I remember when we used to have meetings in smoke-filled rooms to decide who would take on the presidency of the Commission. That was an enormous disservice to EU democracy and a violation of sovereignty in member states. If some want to go back to bad old days I do not believe that is what we should do.”
Speaking at a separate news conference in Strasbourg, Greens/EFA group co-leader Philippe Lamberts also addressed the thorny issue of transnational lists.
The Belgian MEP said, “Some European-wide federal constituencies do make sense but this is not something we would want for all the Parliament.
“However, such lists are one way of injecting more Europe into the election campaign next year.
“It would mean political parties will in future have to speak a more consistent European language. At present there are a lot of inconsistencies. Like food products people need to know what they are buying when they vote.”
He said, “It is logical though that such lists will be based on national lists.”
Ahead of the vote, German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen told this website that transnational lists would be “good for European democracy.”
He said, “Let us first recall the European Parliament has called for the introduction of transnational lists on numerous occasions.
“The first time in 1998 in the report of then Vice-President of the European Parliament Georgios Anastassopoulos and most recently in the Parliament's proposal for a reform of the European electoral law in November 2015. Transnational lists are a well-established demand of the European Parliament.”
Leinen added, “Transnational lists are not a danger to European democracy, but on the contrary, would enable European citizens to directly vote for their preferred lead candidate, thus completing the innovation of the 2014 elections, when Parliament successfully defended its prerogative to elect the head of the Executive, as it is the right of every Parliament in a parliamentary democracy.”
He went on, “A fundamental problem of the European elections is the fact that they are not at all European, but the sum of national election laws, election lists, and of national election campaigns. 40 years after the introduction of direct elections to the European
Parliament it is high time to give these elections a real European dimension. European elections should focus on European politics and not be used as national ‘second-order elections’.”