Defence minister is Juncker’s favourite for German Commission post

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is likely to be Juncker's top choice to fill Germany's Commissioner post. [The Council of the European Union]

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is likely to be Juncker's top choice to fill Germany's Commissioner post. [The Council of the European Union]

Few women can be found among EU Commissioners, something Jean-Claude Juncker says he will change if he becomes Commission president, amid news that Martin Schulz has given up vying for the post and rumours that Ursula von der Leyen is Juncker’s top choice. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The scramble to select the next president of the European Commission may not be over, but an agreement seems to be near. Controversial top candidate from the conservatives, Jean-Claude Juncker, is already sure of victory.

At the EU Summit next week, Juncker is certain that he will be chosen to succeed José Manuel Barroso and is already negotiating with EU member states over the composition of the next European Commission.

Conservative candidate Juncker sees the particularly low percentage of female Commissioners as a significant deficiency, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel reported. Juncker has criticised the fact that up until now, former Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is the only woman who has been discussed as possible candidate for the next European Commission, the newspaper indicated from sources near Juncker.

Currently, nine of 28 EU Commissioners are female. As Commission president, Juncker said he would increase the number of women in the Commission.

“Four of ten Commissioners must be women,” said the source near Juncker. With regard to Germany, Juncker supposedly already has someone in mind: Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

So far only men from Germany in the Commission

In Germany, only men have been chosen for the top position of EU Commissioner. Among them are the current Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the current leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who hails from the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Schulz expressed his desire to become a kind of vice chancellor at Juncker’s side, speaking on Wednesday (18 June) in Brussels. Schulz said he is open to this vice chancellor model because it would give the next European Commission greater stability.

Whether or not Schulz has a chance at this position remains uncertain, as opposition in governing circles is significant.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, for example, recently said he was against supporting Schulz as future vice chief of the Commission. Speaking on Deutschlandfunk public radio, the CDU politician said the German seat in the next Commission should be filled by someone from the centre-right alliance.

The representative of individual countries in the supervisory body is generally someone from the strongest political power in each country, Schäuble said, and that is clearly the CDU and the CSU in Germany.

Meanwhile, the centre-right politician expressed his approval of the German Commissioner currently in office, who recently said he would like to stay in Brussels. “Günther Oettinger has produced exceptional work over the last few years,” the minister said.

SPD accepts defeat over Commissioner post

On Friday (20 June) the SPD finally relented in the fight for Schulz’s future, abandoning its claim to the German Commissioner post.

“The SPD will accept a Commissioner from the [centre-right alliance], as long as Martin Schulz is elected president of the European Parliament”, Gabriel told Spiegel Online.

Indirectly, Gabriel expressed renewed support for conservative Luxembourg-native Jean-Claude Juncker to be the choice for Commission president, advocating for a “strong Juncker/Schulz axis”.

“Juncker being chosen as Commission president and the choice for Schulz should be linked”, Gabriel told Spiegel Online.

“Now it is up to Angela Merkel to convince her party family of this,” he said.

The reason for this decision could be a rising fear that Schulz may come out with nothing in the gamble over EU top jobs.

Gabriel intends to introduce the SPD’s new line of action at a meeting of social democratic heads of state on Saturday, according to Der Spiegel, which also claims Merkel is privy to the plans.

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.

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