After election, power struggle begins for EU’s top jobs

World Today

After election, power struggle begins for EU's top jobs

In Brussels, leaders are fighting over not only who should take the EU’s helm – but how? CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports on what’s at stake.

With EU parliamentary elections complete, the horse-trading to secure top jobs within the bloc has begun in earnest. Up for grabs: the presidencies of the EU Commission, Council, Parliament and European Central Bank. The winning candidates will be chosen by EU leaders at their June summit.

Validated by an uptick in voter participation, the European Parliament wants to seize the opportunity. Ahead of an informal dinner of EU Heads of State and Government on Tuesday, parliamentary leaders spoke out on the race to fill the upcoming vacancy at the EU Commission.

“Based on this new balance of power in the European Parliament, there will be a tough modern and active agreement between the future majority in the house,” said Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and the Belgian candidate for the European Commission’s presidency.

Ska Keller, the German candidate for the same position who is also a member of the parliament, explained that from her point of view, “it is very clear that this evening we will need to see from the (EU) Council a movement towards them respecting not just the outcome of the elections but also the role of the parliament, that they can’t go around us.”

“For us Greens,” she added, “we are supporting the lead candidate procedure because this is an important progress in EU democracy.”

In 2014, the EU parliament came up with a more democratic ‘lead candidate’ process, whereby whichever group in the parliament forms a winning coalition or has a majority, its candidate is put forward to the EU Council. That year, the process led to the selection of the European People’s Party candidate, Jean Claude Juncker, for the position.

EU leaders were busy ahead of the dinner Tuesday, securing alliances and allegiances for their preferred candidates.

Germany’s Angela Merkel – who belongs to the EPP group – urged leaders to stick to the parliamentary procedure and choose her party’s preferred candidate. But French President Emmanuel Macron offered something different.

“We have to choose the people who will hold up our EU project and those persons need a double majority – in the EU Parliament and in the EU Council,” Macron argued.

And after dinner, Eu Council President Donald Tusk said “Today’s discussion confirmed the agreement reached by the leaders in February last year, that the European Council will exercise its role when electing the Commission President meaning, in accordance with the treaties, that there can be no automaticity.”

Tusk said the process and not names were discussed on Tuesday evening. But could the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier be the dark horse in the race to become the EU Commission president? Despite not being a formal candidate and despite coming from a different party to France’s President, it appears he’s Macron’s preferred candidate.