EU leaders will address the political imbalance at the Union’s helm this year as a “substantial” number are “unhappy” with the current distribution, Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat said today (9 March).
Speaking to reporters before the European Council started, Muscat commented that the situation is “not sustainable”, as a single political family holds most of the top positions of the EU institutions.
He added that this distribution was “bad” not only for the institutions but also for Europe.
The EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, controls the presidencies of the three main institutions: the European Council, the Parliament and the European Commission.
The Eurogroup presidency and the foreign policy chief’s posts are controlled by the Socialists & Democrats (S&D). The centre-left group includes one head of state and eight heads of government.
Seven leaders of national governments come from liberals ALDE, but they don’t control any top post.
EU leaders shared their dissatisfaction with Muscat, a socialist, during his round of contacts to sound out the capitals’ views for the re-election of Donald Tusk as European Council president.
The Council is expected to reappoint him today for another term.
The Maltese prime minister did not expect a substantial discussion on the political balance during his rotating presidency. But he told reporters that it will take place this year.
A mention could be included in the European Council conclusions today, he added.
Muscat explained that the Commission presidency could fall under the review process to achieve a more balanced distribution.
Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed Commission chief following the EPP’s victory in the 2014 European elections.
But the spitzenkandidaten procedure is not established in the treaties. Leaders said that they would reassess this approach after the 2014 elections. A review should take place now, Muscat argued.
The protest of various heads of national governments against the political imbalance would not influence the confirmation of Tusk for a second term, Muscat explained.
In his round of contacts with the 28 member states, he found an “overwhelming” majority in favour of renewing his mandate for another two and a half years.
Despite the staunch opposition of Poland’s conservative government to the nomination of his former premier, Muscat expected the European Council’s endorsement during today’s summit.
The “rules are clear” he insisted. He was open to calling for a vote if it was necessary to overcome Warsaw’s opposition.
Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo was ready to filibuster the adoption of the summit conclusions in order to derail the process.
But Muscat played down the consequences of these threats.
He insisted that a decision would be taken today as he recalled that this is the last European Council before the end of Tusk’s mandate in May.
Sources told EURACTIV that at the European People’s Party pre-summit the only center-right leader who expressed concerns about Tusk’s re-election was Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban.
“The fact that we are backing a candidate who does not have the support of his country’s government should not be seen as a precedent,” Orban allegedly said.