Pascal Lamy should lead European Commission, says Delors


Former European Commission President Jacques Delors has backed the former WTO Director General Pascal Lamy to succeed José Manuel Barroso as the head of the EU executive next year.

Lamy is member of the socialist political family, for which Martin Schulz is almost certain to carry the Commission nomination in the upcoming EU election campaign.

Asked by the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF on Friday (11 October) who would be the best person to lead the next European Commission, Jacques Delors (88) said: “I might be accused of favouritism, but the best candidate would be Pascal Lamy."

“Throughout his work, Pascal Lamy showed that markets need freedom, but regulation just as much. By the way, that’s exactly the German economic model: social market economy,” Delors said.

Lamy, a top-level French economist and politician who led the World Trade Organization for the past eight years, reportedly responded to the compliment, saying “there is a father-son bond between [Jacques Delors] and me”.

From 1985 to 1994, Pascal Lamy served as Delors’ head of cabinet, when Delors held the position of Commission president (of the European Economic Community). Lamy also fulfilled a mandate as EU commissioner for trade during Romano Prodi’s presidency of the EU executive (from 1999 to 2004).

Lamy recently left the WTO following the end of his mandate as director general (from 2005 to August 2013).

Lamy is a member of the French Socialist Party (PS) and would have to carry its nomination as common candidate to lead the EU elections for its umbrella group, the Party of European Socialists (PES).

EURACTIV has reported that the PES is almost certain to nominate Martin Schulz as its lead candidate and front-runner, provided the SPD is able to broker a power-sharing deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the head of the German government. The Commission presidential candidate is formally named by heads of state and governments taking into account the results of the European elections.

Coming up with common candidates is an initiative by the European parties to press the European Council into selecting the winning party’s front-runner as the next Commission president (see background). Negotiations could heat up in the months following the May 2014 elections.

Delors said he had proposed having public candidates in 1999. “I stand by it,” he said, “but what will happen if a candidate wins the elections but does not please two or three governments [in Council]? We will face disappointment and outcries that we’re anti-democratic.”

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy expressed similar concerns in a debate on Friday, when he dismissed the idea of common candidates as “organising the disappointment in advance”.

The interview with Delors was conducted on the margins of a conference held by Le Nouvel Observateur and other media in Brussels on Thursday. The ex-president debated the future of the EU in a high-level discussion between Van Rompuy, former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González.

In a report published yesterday (14 October), the Centre for European Reform think tank said that the proposal to put forward 'faces' for European elections to improve democratic legitimacy was ill-fated. 

"National leaders must themselves get out in the campaign because they have the clout and credibility to make the case for the momentous decisions they took to save the euro. EU-level policies have become much more salient and citizens in every country have strong views on them now," write analysts Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne.

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.

EU affairs pundits and European parties have pushed for these parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This would make the European elections ade facto race for the Commission president seat, would politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.

  • 31 Oct.: PES closes nomination period for the EC presidency candidates
  • Feb. 2014: PES congress electing the candidate and adopting a common campaign manifesto
  • 22-25 May 2014: European parliament elections in all 28 member states

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