Open Europe Blog

Gone but not yet forgotten

The European Parliament and the political machines that dominate it were, according to many, not supposed to select the President of the European Commission – but they got their man. MEPs, led by Spitzenkandidaten Martin Schultz and Jean-Claude Juncker outplayed the member states through a clever use of ambiguous treaty wording and a political deal, which in turn was driven by pure German domestic politics.

Having installed Juncker as Commission President MEPs took the individual candidates, nominated by the member states, to task. According to the Treaties, the EP can accept or reject the entire Commission, but MEPs have turned this into de facto votes on individual Commissioners, with intra-EP politics meaning some nominees may be taken ‘hostage’. Having called back the UK’s Lord Hill for a second hearing – creating jitters in Downing Street – MEPs finally voted down Slovenian candidate Alenka Bratušek. She was today forced to resign – despite Juncker himself insisting on her candidacy. MEPs seemed to have made their point – it has voted down individual nominees in the past, and as we predicted, the EP was bound to claim a scalp. 

MEPs now seem to be pushing their luck further – attempting to tell the Slovenian Government who they should appoint as their new candidate, with both the EPP and S&D calling for the nomination to go to social-democrat MEP Tanja Fajon. Slovenia, however, is pushing back. The country’s PM has issued a statement saying:

“The Slovenian Prime Minister expects political groups in the European Parliament to abide by EU law and the fundamental democratic principle in selecting candidates for commissioners” 

In other words, the Slovenians say, this is for their Government – not MEPs – to decide.

Will MEPs stand back? We will see. To be fair, Slovenia has a new government and we can’t blame it for events over the least few months. But we can’t help asking, isn’t this exactly what member states were asking for when agreeing to the Spitzenkandidaten in the first place?

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