Guy Vehofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, would be "very pleased" to appear on the first-ever transnational list at the 2014 European elections in order to revive his chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission, EURACTIV has learned.
MEP Andrew Duff (ALDE; UK), the Parliament's rapporteur on a proposal to introduce a transnational list at the 2014 European elections, told EURACTIV in an interview that the stakes were high for legitimising the next Commission president.
"To tie the next Commission president election to the next European elections is a very important thing. There are many different ways of doing it, but I think this way is the very best way," Duff argued.
"I always suspected that [current Commission President José Manuel] Barroso's successor could come from the transnational list," Duff said.
He was commenting on a statement by Felipe González, chairman of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe, who said in the Parliament on 4 October that he would like the next Commission president to be elected from a transnational list at the 2014 European elections.
Duff argued that for the "credible personalisation" of the election of the next Commission president, it would be better for the successful candidate to have had to go through an election process, instead of "being plucked from thin air".
He also mentioned the fact that important people, such as ex-prime ministers, "do not want to be defeated in an election campaign".
"But they might be prepared to be candidates for the Parliament. And indeed, there are a number of ex-prime ministers in the Parliament," said Duff. Verhofstadt was prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008.
Asked if Verhofstadt was eyeing transnational lists because his party, Open-VLD, was polling rather poorly these days, Duff insisted that the project appealed to the ALDE leader because his "European credibility" was "very large".
Duff explained that a transnational list of 25 candidates would be set up by the existing political groups. 25 MEPs would be elected on top of the 751 MEPs provided for by the Lisbon Treaty. For this, the European Parliament would vote a resolution, hopefully in December, and then an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) would make changes to the Lisbon Treaty to send to the Parliament both the 18 'phantom MEPs' and the 25 additional members from the transnational list.
If the changes are adopted, European voters would have the possibility to vote for their national MEPs, and if they so wished, cast a ballot for the transnational list as well, Duff said. Voters would be able to vote for the entire list or for individual candidates.
But Duff warned of opposition from "anti-federalists" who he said would try to sink the project. He added that the recently-established 'Spinelli Group' in the European Parliament would strongly promote the transnational list.