If the implementation of transnational lists for the 2019 European elections does not appear to be panning out as Emmanuel Macron wished, the French president now hopes to gain the upper hand on the appointment of the next European Commission president. EURACTIV.fr reports
At the informal summit on Friday (23 February), the 27 heads of state and government will be dealing with how to organise the 2019 European elections.
The French agenda includes: the size of the future European Commission, the creation of transnational lists, the spitzenkandidaten procedure and citizens’ consultations. “The point of all these issues is the same: to breathe new life into the European debate,” said a source in the French president’s office.
Emmanuel Macron, who has made Friday’s summit a key moment in his drive to overhaul the European project, will have to defend his positions on two separate fronts: transnational lists and the choice of the future Commission president.
In the last European elections in 2014, the choice of the future president of the European Commission was carried out according to the spitzenkandidaten procedure, which implies that the proposed leader of the winning political family in the polls automatically gets the job.
MEPs and member states not on the same wavelength
This procedure, which reduced the influence of member states on the outcome, put Jean-Claude Juncker at the head of the European executive despite opposition from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
With no party group in the EP behind him, Macron currently rejects the automatic nature of this nomination procedure, which leaves the choice of the various candidates up to the big European political families. As early as last September, the French president had warned that he would not let the major political parties maintain a monopoly on the debate on Europe and the European elections.
These statements have earned him the hostility of MEPs from all sides, who are all very attached to the spitzenkandidaten procedure, which, in their view, enhances the democratic element of the European project.
“But the European machine is not immutable,” said the French presidential office, which aims to obtain the support of other heads of state and government in opposing the automatic choice of the candidate of the majority party.
“There are European parties and they have their procedures. That is their right and that is what they want. But a distinction should be made when it comes to the outcome of the European elections,” the French government added.
The debate on who will be in the next European Commission “will have to take place in the next Parliament, not in this one,” said a source in the French presidential office. On this issue, Macron hopes to convince the other members of the Council at the meeting in Brussels.
While Macron’s European counterparts might prove sympathetic on the issue of the choice of the future president of the European executive, the balance of power does not appear to be in the French president’s favour on the question of transnational lists.
“There is some degree of support in the European Parliament and among southern European states on transnational lists” stated the French government “But this is still a new idea in the political debate, so it’s quite a good sign.”
The European Parliament rejected the idea of pan-European party lists in a vote in early February, leaving little hope for the project championed by Macron.
Effective implementation of such lists in time for the 2019 elections seems unattainable, according to a source in the French presidential office, which anticipates “broad support for the idea of transnational lists for the following elections,” that is to say in 2025.
Macron pleads his case
Opposing the European Parliament’s stance, the French president will come to defend his positions at the Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg in April.
During the visit, the French head of state will probably face the criticisms of MEPs. Although the creation of a transnational list has the support of a not-insignificant proportion of MEPs, albeit still a minority, they are unanimous in their opposition to abandoning the spitzenkandidaten procedure.