Spitzenkandidaten: The key to the European political parties’ candidates to the European Commission presidency after the EU elections of 2019.
Jean-Claude Juncker will be replaced as European Commission president in November 2019, after the European elections to be held on 23-26 May 2019. The Presidencies of other three core institutions will become vacant as well: the Council, the Parliament and the European Central Bank.
The European parties are already putting forward their candidates to succeed Juncker after next year’s elections. The Spitzenkandidat (German for ‘lead candidate’) system was first used in 2014 and requires that the European Council selects a lead candidate among those nominated by political parties, taking account of the outcome of the European elections (as outlined in the Treaty of Europe), that is, the candidate from the majority governing coalition in the European Parliament (353 MEPs). After being formally proposed by heads of state or government, the lead candidate is elected President of the Commission by the European Parliament. This system is supposed to strengthen the link between the executive power of the EU and voters.
However, not all European political parties are in line with this system. Whereas the two main political groups in the current European Parliament (PPE and S&D) support this system, ALDE, aligning with French President Emmanuel Macron, has decided not to field a single lead candidate. According to the Commission recommendation of 14 February, national and European parties are expected to announce their Spitzenkandidat by the end of 2018 and, by early 2019, the candidate’s own programme.
For the moment, three Spitzenkandidaten have been put forward. Two have been formally selected (Manfred Weber, EPP and Jan Zahradil, AERC) and on the socialist side, Frans Timmermans is the only remaining candidate in the race for the position after Maroš Šefčovič withdrew to support him. For the Greens, the three contenders (Ska Keller, Bas Eickhout and Petra de Sutter) will present themselves at their Council in Berlin on 23-25 November 2018.
Manfred Weber is the odds-on favourite to become the next European Commission President since the EPP is expected to be the largest party in the Parliament in the next European elections. However, polls suggest a loss of seats for this party.
POLITICAL GROUPS & NOMINATED CANDIDATES
1. European People’s Party (EPP)
Designated on 7 November at Helsinki Congress
National Party: Christian Social Union, Germany (positioned to the right-wing of the EPP).
He is the odds-on favourite to become the next European Commission President as the representative of the EPP.
He is the leader of the EPP at the European Parliament, its largest party; however, he is relatively unknown outside the European Parliament. He received 492 votes at the EPP congress in Helsinki, while his contender, the Finnish Alexander Stubb obtained 127. He enjoys the support of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In September, he voted in favour of triggering sanctions against Viktor Orbán (Hungarian prime minister), while he has been a long-time defender of Orbán and Fidesz and their place within the EPP, and the latter backed him as candidate against Stubb. This vote brings him closer to the moderates.
2. Progressive Alliance of European Socialists and Democrats (S&D)
His candidacy will be endorsed on 7-8 December. Lisbon Congress
National party: Labour Party (PvdA)
The Party of European Socialists (S&D group in the EP is mainly composed of PES members) is the second largest party in the European Parliament. Timmermans is currently the first vice-president of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Better Regulation, Interinstitutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights since 2014, which gives him visibility.
He is a former Foreign Minister of The Netherlands and is a great communicator who speaks seven languages. He is experienced across European stages. He is the Socialists’ sole candidate for their nomination after the withdrawal of Pierre Moscovici and Maroš Šefčovič.He has led the Commission’s work investigating breaches of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary.
3. Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) will not present one Spitzenkandidat, but a number of candidates for the “Top EU Jobs”. The slate of candidates will be selected at the Berlin Congress in February 2019
Two prominent candidates are Margrethe Vestager and Vera Jourová.Vestager is the current European Commissioner for Competition. She was described as the rich world’s most powerful trustbuster by The Economist.Jourová is the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality since 2014. She is the fourth Czech (and first Czech woman) to hold an EU commissioner post.
4. European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR)
Candidacy formally endorsed on 13/11
National party: Civic Democratic Party
He is a member of the European Parliament and is very critical with EPP and their Spitzenkandidaten. He said in an opinion article that choosing between Weber or Stubb is a “choice between Coke Light and Coke Zero”.
He supports a multi-speed European Union.
5. The Greens – European Free Alliance (EFA)
The three contenders will present themselves at the 29th European Green Party Autumn Council in Berlin on 23-25 November 2018, and a vote to select the final two candidates will also take place during the Council. 24 november. Berlin Congress. Selection of 2 Spitzenkandidaten.
The party will choose two final candidates (Spitzenkandidat-duo)and at least one of them must be a woman.
There are currently three names in line: Ska Keller (German), Bas Erckhout (Dutch) and Petra De Sutter (Belgian). Keller and Erckout are both Members of the European Parliament and they head out as favourites.
6. European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)
The European Left has not yet decided on whether to participate in the Spitzenkandidaten process.
7. EUROPEAN SPRING
Has expressed its willingness to present a Spitzenkandidat, but is not recognized as a group.