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Hollande and Merkel to discuss future EU Commission President

The two heads of state will meet on 9-10 May in Stralsund, Germany, for an informal discussion on the future President of the European Commission. EurActiv France reports.

The European elections are just around the corner, and the Franco-German duo will have an informal meeting in Stralsund on the Baltic Sea, the Chancellor’s electoral stronghold.

Invited by the German Chancellor, François Hollande will be present to discuss a number of European issues with his German counterpart, including the Ukrainian crisis, relations with Russia, Europe’s energy independence and the upcoming European elections. The proposed takeover of French energy company Alstom will only be discussed “if the chancellor raises the matter”, stated the Élysée.

Franco-German cooperation

The rendezvous, which will take place on Europe Day, will also be an opportunity for the pair to discuss the post-electoral period. According to the Élysée palace, the two heads of state hope to discuss “methods in designating the future president of the European Commission”.

Up until now, this key position has been negotiated behind closed doors between EU member states. However, this year is the first time that the Lisbon Treaty will come into force, giving the European Parliament a more active role in the nomination process.

Article 17 of the Treaty states that “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission […] The candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members” (Article 17, paragraph 7 of the EU Treaty).

All the mainstream European parties proceeded to choose their candidates internally. Although the European parties jumped at the chance of having a more important role, heads of EU states and governments have been cautious of the article’s interpretation, and to what extent the Parliament will affect the nomination process.

>> Read: None of the leading candidates will be Commission President: analyst

In late 2013, Angela Merkel raised doubts on the new nomination process by declaring that there was no “automatic link” between the party that wins the European elections and the next President of the Commission.

François Hollande refused to make any public declarations on the matter, or provide any public support to Martin Schulz, the socialist candidate for EU Commission President.

The Élysée has tried to retain influence in the nomination process. “The treaty is clear: the Council will propose a candidate, and then the Parliament will have to approve its choice,” emphasised the Élysée.

Government efforts to retain control?

The main European political parties will meet on 27 May 2014 to begin preliminary discussions. At the same time, the heads of state, convened by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, will meet for the first time in order to initiate discussions on the European elections and the future President of the Commission.

It will be difficult for the member states to ignore the new direction of the treaty, which presents the new elections process as more democratic.

Merkel and Hollande “will not be able to not take account of the European election results,” claimed a French presidential adviser. Although France seems to respect the more democratic process of choosing a candidate from one of the European parties, the process involved in choosing the candidate within the parties has been criticised.

Background

The European elections will be 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.

Timeline

  • 22-25 May: European elections in 28 EU member states
  • 26 May 2014: informal meetings on the formation of parliamentary groups
  • 27May 2014: Informal European Council meeting to discuss the election results and the negotiation process
  • June 2014: parliamentary groups open informal negotiations with the EU Council on the next President of the Commission
  • 26-27 June 2014: appointment of Commission President at the European Council summit Wed Ding
  • 1-3 July 2014: first plenary session of the newly constituted European Parliament. Informal negotiations between the EU Council and potential bilateral or multilateral negotiations with heads of state
  • 14-17 July 2014: Parliament plenary vote on the appointment of the Commission President by the European Council