British Prime Minister David Cameron warned fellow European Union leaders today (27 May) not to be “railroaded” by the European Parliament into choosing a candidate to head up the next European Commission.
In a series of phone calls to leaders ahead of a summit in Brussels later on Tuesday, Cameron stressed they should choose who they want rather than be strong-armed into selecting a candidate backed by the European Parliament.
“We need to follow the correct procedure for that, which is that the European Council has the right to nominate, that we shouldn’t be railroaded by the parliament,” a spokeswoman for Cameron said, referring to the body which groups EU leaders.
The British Prime Minister conveyed the message in phone calls yesterday and today to 10 EU leaders. He also spoke with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
Under EU rules, leaders nominate a candidate for the top job, which has sweeping legislative powers, “taking into account” elections to the European Parliament. Whoever they choose must be approved by a simple majority in parliament.
But Cameron is concerned that one of the leading candidates is arguing that EU leaders should choose him based on the outcome of the European elections. Cameron wants leaders to first identify reform priorities and to then pick someone suitable, his spokeswoman said.
The Tory chief sees the candidate, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, as being too federalist and likely to damage his hopes of reforming Britain’s EU ties. Juncker has been chosen by the EU’s main centre-right political group, the European People’s Party, to be their candidate for the top job.
The European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.
The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This will make the European elections a de facto race for commission president, politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.
But others have argued that the European parties’ push for their own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.
As of 27 May, the results of the European elections for the three major political families present the following result: EPP 2013 MEPs, S&D 189 MEPS, ALDE 63 MEPs. The leading candidates are Jean-Claude Juncker for EPP, Martin Schulz for S&D and Guy Verhofstadt for ALDE.