The European Council ended without EU leaders agreeing on who could be the candidate for the next European Commission president. But not all EU leaders are leaving Brussels empty-handed.
French president Emmanuel Macron got what he wanted: The Council pushed out German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s candidate, Manfred Weber, the deputy head of her centre-right sister party, CSU, who had been picked by the conservatives as their candidate for the Commission.
A German journalist asked Macron why Weber’s lack of experience was a valid basis for rejecting the German’s bid for the Commission Presidency. After all, Macron himself didn’t have much experience when he became president, the journalist remarked.
Macron’s reply was scathing: While the French president is elected directly by the people, Weber was the lead candidate for a regional list in Germany. “Big deal,” he said.
Macron again firmly rejected the Spitzenkandidaten procedure: “The Commission president needs to be chosen according to their qualification. Too often have we made compromises in the past, electing people who didn’t necessarily contribute the best to our project”.
The Parliament’s preferences have to be taken into account, “but choosing the Commission president is our [the Council’s] competence”. A new round of talks is going to be launched with Tusk and the parliamentary groups, “in which new names might appear”.
In the future, if the European Parliament elections are held on the basis of transnational lists, lead candidates will have the required democratic legitimacy, Macron said. But until this is the case, the process is not democratic.
That is a position also endorsed by Luxembourg’s Premier Xavier Bettel, who said he “was no enthusiast of the (Spitzenkandidat) procedure from the very beginning” and added he does not find it democratic or transparent without transnational lists.
He warned against having a game of musical chairs to find the right candidate for Commission president though. “This is not a game […] where the last one remaining gets nominated.”
This comes after Macron succeeded in putting his party in the middle of the European political chessboard after the last European elections. He even managed to make the Liberals change their name to ‘Renew Europe’.
And while there are some tensions between France and Germany, both leaders made it very clear that it shouldn’t be seen as a crisis.
“We respect each other and I can say very clearly that I do not want to take a decision against France and I think France does not want to take a decision against Germany,” Angela Merkel told reporters.
Asked whether there was tension between Paris and Berlin over the nomination process, Macron offered a similar message of harmony.
“I have nothing against a German candidacy, I said it and it wasn’t a joke, had the chancellor been a candidate, I would have supported her, because I think she has the qualities, the skills to be a very good president of the Commission.”
“It is not what she wants, I respect that very deeply,” Macron added.
In India, baby girls are killed simply for being girls. In recent years, 19 million have died through sex-selective abortion or by being killed just after birth. The EU should strongly oppose this widespread practice and effectively champion women’s rights and female empowerment. Read more here.
By Alexandra Brzozowski
Bulgarian PM Borissov warned EU hopeful North Macedonia against what he said was “anti-Bulgarian rhetoric” and appropriation of Bulgaria’s history as its own, saying it “must stop”.
The Franco-German arm wrestling reflects different political visions over the appointment of the new European Commission boss. For France, the treaty and the best candidate matter the most, while for Germany, the priority is democracy.
The EPP’s “party choice” of Manfred Weber has killed the Spitzenkandidaten process as two other candidates, socialist Frans Timmermans and liberal Margrethe Vestager, also had to be dropped despite actually enjoying wider support in the EU Council, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
This week’s edition of Tweets of the Week is dedicated to top jobs.
EU28 ruled out the prospect of a further Brexit extension as the European Council summit drew to a close with Council boss Donald Tusk accusing the UK of wasting its six-month extension, which ends on 31 October.
The EU stepped up its rhetoric over Turkey’s “illegal” drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, raising the threat of sanctions if Ankara refuses to back down.
The European Council failed to agree on a landmark climate strategy for 2050 as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland baulked at the mention of a specific date, despite the efforts of France and Germany to convince them. The next Commission was also urged to launch an ‘aviation package’.
US President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned $130-million surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching the attacks, the New York Times said.
Delegates from around the world are set to choose the new head of the UN food and agriculture agency this weekend in a three-way race between candidates from France, China and Georgia.
Thousands of protesters attempted to storm the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, furious that a Russian lawmaker addressed the assembly from the speaker’s seat during an international event.
Look out for…
While we impatiently look forward to the next Commission, incumbent boss Jean-Claude Juncker receives his predecessors José Manuel Barroso, Romano Prodi and Jacques Santer, as well as ex-Commissioner Pascal Lamy for an informal lunch.
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]