As the negotiations for the European Union’s top jobs are still ongoing, one can only try to guess who could become the next President of the European Commission for the 2019-2024 legislative period. As suspected before the European elections, not every political group of the European Parliament is eager to play by the informal “Spitzenkandidat” rule, which makes it even more complicated to assume the identity of the next President of the European Commission.
If the Spitzenkandidat process is indeed to be followed, it is highly likely that this would benefit German MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP). However, the biggest obstacle to Weber’s nomination as next president of the European Commission still seems to be his lack of executive experience. As the European Council is the one institution which proposes the next President of the European Commission (by majority voting), EPP-friendly European leaders risk being outnumbered while supporting Weber’s candidacy. Even worse for the German MEP, many within the EPP are doubtful about Weber’s candidacy.
The growing doubts about Weber fitted in with the somber mood at the EPP convention in San Sebastián, particularly among re-elected veteran MEPs. Even though the EPP remains the first group in the European Parliament, it lost 37 seats and consequently gave up on its monopoly in Brussels, where it currently holds the presidencies of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. Therefore, the EPP’s main priority is now to deliver the next President of the European Commission, regardless of the person who will get the position. The current President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently tried to save the internal coherence as he again stressed that he, as a member of the EPP, was supporting Manfred Weber as he said: “The EPP is unanimously supporting Manfred Weber.”
Because of those uncertainties, some sources speak of a deal between the EPP and the liberal group, Renew Europe (ex-ALDE) in which Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE’s leader and former Belgian Prime Minister, would become the next President of the European Parliament. As a trade-off, the EPP would then secure the Presidency of the European Commission. Whether this deal will become a reality is an open question as Guy Verhofstadt’s spokesperson denied that the liberal group leader was indeed pursuing such a plan. Nevertheless, the idea is being discussed in EU political circles, while discussions about the top jobs within the EU are becoming more intense.
Also, as Manfred Weber’s name is now rarely mentioned as potential President of the European Commission, more and more people at the European level talk about Michel Barnier, EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit and EPP member. However, the liberal family seems to push for having Danish Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager as the next President of the European Commission. If their plan does not work out, the European liberals could then claim the Presidency of the European Council, a position for which Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and his Dutch colleague Mark Rutte would be eligible for.
Recently, Angela Merkel’s name as the future President of the European Commission was also mentioned. Both French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel already said that she would be an excellent candidate. Merkel, however, has repeatedly stated that she intends to complete her term in Berlin and does not want another job in politics afterwards.
In addition to the President of the European Commission and the European Parliament, the positions of President of the European Central Bank and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy are also vacant.
More information on the battle for EU’s top jobs is available here.