Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans will be the lead candidate of the Party of European Socialists in next year’s EU elections, the party announced on Monday (5 November) after his rival Maroš Šefčovič withdrew from the race and backed the Dutchman instead.
Šefčovič wrote to PES President Sergei Stanishev that he endorses “Frans as the PES Common Candidate to be presented for a vote in order to lead our party family into the 2019 European Parliament elections.”
“I wish Frans the best of luck in these demanding times. At the same time, I stand ready to work closely with him,” added the Slovak Commissioner, who is also Commission vice president.
— PES (@PES_PSE) November 5, 2018
In the statement, Šefčovič stressed that the election for the European Parliament in May will be a turning point for the shape and direction of the entire EU.
He expressed his will to actively contribute to the PES 2019 campaign and stated that while “Europe’s face and heart are at stake”, he believes that “everyone has to play their part.”
“I also understand the power of team spirit and shared goals” and said he wanted to “create a united front and concentrate our energy on preparing a powerful political agenda.”
The PES has previously held an open process for nominations for its Spitzenkandidat. Šefčovič’s move now rallies the political group behind Timmermans as the one lead candidate for the official blessing at the Party of European Socialists Lisbon congress in December.
PES chief Stanishev welcomed the decision, praising Timmermans as the “leading defender of democracy and the rule of law in the European Union, known as a dedicated champion of equality, fairness and women’s rights.”
“I am sure Frans is the person to lead the fightback against the harm that has been done to the EU and that he will spare no effort in bringing together the progressive forces in Europe in the name of a social, fair, just and democratic European Union,” he added.
Timmermans announced his bid for the Commission top job in October in his hometown of Heerlen in the Netherlands. But it could be jeopardised by his rule of law efforts against Hungary, Poland and Romania, as he may have to rely on backing from other countries.
The polls, however, are forecasting losses for the Social Democrats throughout Europe, though they are still expected to end up the second biggest force in the 2019 May elections.