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European Election update: New candidates in top EU positions

The month of June was fully packed for the newly elected MEPs. Two plenary sessions were in place, where important top position were elected, among them the president of the European Parliament, the president of the European Commission and the chairs for the parliamentary committees.

European Commission president

The first position let to controversy and an emotional discussion inside and outside the Parliament. Many were surprised about the nomination –and eventual adoption– of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president. She was not on the ballot for the European elections as one of the Spitzenkandidaten, nor is she a prominent EU politician from the past.

To understand the path of von der Leyen’s nomination and approval, you need to have a closer look at the treaties and politics of the EU. By nominating von der Leyen, the Council –and, thus, national governments – did not choose any of the lead candidates of the political groups, which campaigned in the European elections as candidates for the European Commission president post. Therefore, the nomination of von der Leyen evoked harsh criticism as being undemocratic, non-transparent and, consequently, very harmful for the EU’s image.

Last elections in 2014 the Council did nominate the lead candidate of the party with the biggest majority in Parliament, which was at the time Jean-Claude Juncker from the EPP. It was the first time the Spitzenkandidaten process was in place, which was developed by the European Parliament in response to increasing unease in the Parliament towards the traditional way in which a president was appointed, which was a secretive and non-transparent process. The European Parliament wanted to ensure having a stronger voice when it came to the Commission. Therefore, in 2009, article 17.7, which reads “the European Council […] shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members”, was amended with the sentence: “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament”.

This time around, the Council did not choose the Spitzenkandidaten of the largest group, nor any other lead candidate, but instead the (now former) Federal Minister for Defense. She had to be confirmed by the Parliament by an anonymous election on the 16 July 2019 with 383 members voting in favour, 327 against, and 22 abstained.

European Parliament President

The election of the next president, who would proceed Antonio Tajani from Italy, was less controversial. Four candidates were standing for the top position: the candidates are:

  • Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE)
  • Sira REGO (GUE/NGL, ES)
  • David-Maria SASSOLI (S&D, IT)
  • Jan ZAHRADIL (ECR, CZ)

The election of one of the candidates was the first act of the newly constituted Parliament. In the second round of voting David Sassoli was elected with 345 out of 667 valid votes. Read here the full details on the elections and statements by the other candidates: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190627IPR55410/david-sassoli-elected-president-of-the-european-parliament

Chairs of the committees

Voting was not over yet for the MEPs. They also chose the next chairs of the parliamentary committees.
You can see the full list of appointed chairs here and here.

A committee bureau (chair and up to four vice-chairs) is elected for a two and a half year mandate. Committees deal with legislative proposals, appoint negotiating teams to conduct talks with EU ministers, adopt reports, organise hearings and scrutinise other EU bodies and institutions.
The Parliament has 20 standing committees and two subcommittees, covering various policy areas from the environment to international trade.

For more information: Isabell Wutz iwutz@coface-eu.org

 

Photo: European Parliament, Licence: CC BY 2.0

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