Column “The European Parliament, the winner takes it all”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

WeuropeanparlYe have witnessed an interesting institutional struggle between Member States and the European Parliament about the designation of the personality to become the new Commission President. According to the innovation brought by the Lisbon Treaty the European Council should take into account the results of the European elections once proposing a candidate for President of the Commission.

As to the question how to apply this innovation, the Parliament developed long before the elections of last May a strategy. The idea was to designate candidates of each political grouping, the understanding being that the group who would end in the European elections as ‘biggest’ would be entitled to deliver the Commission’s new president. When it became clear that the Christian Democrats came out of the elections as biggest group, the Parliament presented former Prime Minister and former Euro Group Chairman Jean Claude Juncker as their candidate for the Commission’s Presidency.

Now, by not reacting to this strategy and in any case by not contesting the appropriateness of the approach of the European Parliament, Member States in fact lost on beforehand the possibility to object against these suggestions after the elections. Indeed we have seen initiatives of individual and groups of heads of state and government who objected against Jean Claude Juncker. However, all these objections were in vain. Cameron even went so far as linking a possible nomination of Juncker to a withdrawal of his country from the European Union. How far one can fall, and what a weighing of national interests in the British capital ……… !

Anyhow, the European Council who met on 26 and 27 June has accepted Juncker as their candidate. The decision was taken by qualified majority since unanimity was not required. A hot discussion about the further composition of the group is still to come.

In conclusion, the European Parliament has operated cleverly. In the end the Parliament has not only appointed the new Commission President but also selected the person concerned.

Picture : © europarl.europa.eu

TEPSA Report “The 2014 EP Election Campaign in the Member States: National Debates, European Elections” by Mirte van den Berge

tepsa“This time it will be different”, that was the slogan of the information campaign for the 2014 European Parliament elections of the European Parliament (EP) itself. While the EP has been directly elected since 1979, its elections are traditionally regarded as second-order elections. The 2014 elections were expected to challenge this fact, marking a shift in the (perceived) importance of the European Union as a whole and the European Parliament in particular. The framework of TEPSA, as a network of 32 think tanks and research institutes focused on EU integration in the EU member states, provides an excellent opportunity to analyse information on the EP election campaign in the member states. The report focuses on the character of the electoral campaign; the topics discussed; the relevance of any alliance to party groups in the European Parliament in the national debates; and the role the European “Spitzenkandidaten” (the candidates nominated by the pan-European political parties for the post of Commission President) played in the election campaigns in the member states. The paper can be regarded as a preliminary attempt to explore whether or not the 2014 election campaigns have been substantially ‘different’ compared to before. Read more