No more backroom deals! MEPs vote on new rules to replace Juncker as Commission chief

Posted on Jan 24 2018 - 1:51am by admin

The proposal will see European Commission presidency candidates rejected if they do not have the official backing of a party political group.

The vote will mount pressure on the European Council – made up of EU leaders – who favour selecting the Commission president that gives them more behind-the-scenes power.

The leading candidate process – otherwise known as Spitzenkandidat – was first used in 2014 to democratise a system. Until now it allowed leaders of the largest countries to dole out top EU jobs via backroom deals.

Under the process, the Commission presidency goes to the party grouping with the most MEPs. By linking the top job in Brussels to the parliamentary election, the idea is to confer democratic, quasi-electoral legitimacy on the position of Commission president.

But Denis MacShane, a former Labour minister of Europe, slammed the way in which Commission presidents are elected, branding it “unacceptable”.

Writing on Politico, he said: “There had long been complaints that the previous system — in which the top jobs were doled out in sordid backroom dealings between national leaders — was unacceptable.”

He added: “To pretend that the Spitzenkandidat system can reinvigorate EU democracy is untenable. 

“The experiment of using the choice of Commission president as a way of demonstrating EU democracy in action hasn’t worked.”

The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee will vote on the provision today and the deadline for the votes to be cast is 4pm GMT.

The European Parliament “will be ready to reject any candidate in the investiture procedure of the Commission president who was not appointed as a Spitzenkandidat in the run-up to the European elections” according to a compromise amendment seen by Politico. 

That means anyone wishing to replace the current president, Jean-Claude Juncker, once his term of office ends in 2019, would have to have a stamp of party approval to stand a chance.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been a vocal advocate of the process, saying in a recent speech that those who defend it should go further and have “real European elections”.

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