The next EU Com­mis­sion chief could be ‘an out­sider’, says Van Rom­puy

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Her­man Van Rom­puy, the Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent, has re­it­er­ated his per­sonal reser­va­tions about the pan-Euro­pean ‘Spitzenkan­di­daten’ for the EU elec­tions, stress­ing the next EU Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent “needs a large ma­jor­ity in the Coun­cil too.”

“We have to re­spect the Treaty when ap­point­ing the next Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent,” Van Rom­puy told the Bel­gian pub­lic broad­caster VRT on Sun­day morn­ing.

“There must be a sim­ple ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment, 376 votes. And there must be a large ma­jor­ity in the Euro­pean Coun­cil of heads of states,” Van Rom­puy said, un­der­lin­ing the ne­ces­sity for the next Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent to win the back­ing of both in­sti­tu­tions.

“We will have to look into this af­ter the elec­tions. We’re gath­er­ing with all heads of state and govern­ment. Right be­fore this Coun­cil, I will meet with the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment [Martin Schulz] who will re­port on the first dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment.”

Van Rom­puy has pen­ciled in a meet­ing of EU heads of states just two days af­ter the elec­tions, on Tues­day 27 May. In the morn­ing, Euro­pean par­ties will gather in the EU Par­lia­ment to dis­cuss their po­si­tion. “I will con­sult the Par­lia­ment; first the pres­i­dent and then the fac­tions. And we will try to come up with a bal­anced so­lu­tion that pre­vents a clash,” he said.

“We will re­spect the Treaty and try to pre­vent a clash of the in­sti­tu­tions. And we’ll try to set­tle this as soon as pos­si­ble,” said Van Rom­puy.

This could put Van Rom­puy on a col­li­sion course with the can­di­dates rep­re­sent­ing the five main par­ties at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions.

In a de­bate in Brussels last Thurs­day, the five can­di­dates stressed they would block all progress if the Coun­cil nom­i­nated some­one who did not par­tic­i­pate in the pan-Euro­pean race for the EU’s lead po­si­tion.

Whether choos­ing one of the five can­di­dates would help in pre­vent­ing such a clash “is a step too far,” Van Rom­puy stressed. “I un­der­stand those can­di­dates de­fend them­selves. But we’ll have to find a so­lu­tion that suits a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment and a large ma­jor­ity amongst mem­ber states.”

The EU news and pol­icy site EurAc­tiv re­ported ear­lier that Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel al­legedly told the cen­treright can­di­date Jean-Claude Juncker that she would sup­port his can­di­dacy if he wins the elec­tions.

“That is said be­tween Ms Merkel and Mr Juncker. I wasn’t present so I can’t judge this,” the Coun­cil pres­i­dent re­acted when pressed about those re­ports.

In the past few weeks, the five of­fi­cial sin­gle can­di­dates (or ‘Spitzenkan­di­dates’) that were nom­i­nated by the Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal par­ties dis­cussed their vi­sion for Europe in a se­ries of pres­i­den­tial de­bates aired on tele­vi­sion.

In do­ing so, the par­ties hoped to bet­ter con­nect cit­i­zens to Euro­pean pol­i­tics and boost voter turnout which has con­sis­tently dropped since the first EU elec­tions were held in 1979.

But Van Rom­puy said, “The trust in the Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions is still big­ger than the trust in na­tional in­sti­tu­tions. We’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a cri­sis of pol­i­tics in gen­eral. We shouldn’t pre­tend that this pop­ulism is a new thing – it was around in France ten years ago, too.”

“I ex­pect to have a large, strong mi­nor­ity of people who doubt the Euro­pean project or Euro­pean pol­i­tics […] but I ex­pect a large ma­jor­ity of mem­bers that show an al­le­giance to the in­sti­tu­tions,” the Bel­gian diplo­mat re­sponded to the pre­dicted rise of euroscep­tic MEPs in sev­eral mem­ber states.

In re­lated com­ments, Van Rom­puy re­ferred to the mo­ment in 2010 that the euroscep­tic mem­ber of the UK In­de­pen­dence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage said he had “the charisma of a damp rag and the ap­pear­ance of a bank clerk”.

“Farage is fauna and flora of the EP,” the Coun­cil pres­i­dent said. “You shouldn’t pay too much at­ten­tion to him.”

22-25 May:

Euro­pean elec­tions to be held in all 28 mem­ber coun­tries.

Con­fer­ence of pres­i­dents of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment meets in an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing.

Par­ties hold pre-sum­mit meet­ings; heads of state join their par­ties to dis­cuss the elec­tions.

EU lead­ers meet for ex­tra­or­di­nary sum­mit to take stock of the elec­tions re­sults.

Nom­i­na­tion of Com­mis­sion Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit.

Ple­nary ses­sion of the newly con­sti­tuted Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. In­for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions with EU Coun­cil and pos­si­ble bi­lat­eral or mul­ti­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions with heads of state.

27 May:

27 May:

27 May:

26-27 June:

1-3 July: 7-10 July: 14-17 July:

pres­i­dent

at

the Of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal group meet­ings.

Par­lia­ment votes on Euro­pean Coun­cil’s nom­i­na­tion of Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent in its ple­nary ses­sion.

Hear­ings of des­ig­nated Com­mis­sion­ers. Vote on the full Com­mis­sion.

Tar­get date for new Com­mis­sion to take of­fice. End of man­date of Her­man Van Rom­puy, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil.

Septem­ber: Oc­to­ber: 1 Novem­ber: Novem­ber:

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