No mat­ter who wins EP elec­tions, La­garde is the favourite

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

IMF chief Chris­tine La­garde is be­ing in­creas­ingly name checked, in the con­text of prepa­ra­tions for the May 27 EU sum­mit, two days af­ter the re­sults of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions are known, diplo­mats told EurAc­tiv.

EU lead­ers will meet for a spe­cial sum­mit on May 27, in or­der to dis­cuss the aftermath of two elec­tions. It was pre­vi­ously an­nounced that the heads of state and govern­ment will gather in Brussels for a din­ner to re­view the re­sults of the Euro­pean elec­tions. But the news is that EU lead­ers will also take stock of the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion held on May 25 in Ukraine, the role of Rus­sia, and the even­tu­al­ity of mov­ing to the “third level” of sanc­tions, which will hit the Rus­sian econ­omy, and back­fire on the Union.

Re­gard­ing the re­sult of the EP elec­tions, the dis­cus­sion is likely to be “messy” if the out­come doesn’t show a clear win­ner, an EU diplo­mat said. Opin­ion polls held across the EU have shown that the re­sults, be­tween the cen­tre-right Euro­pean Peo­ples’ Party (EPP) and the cen­tre-left Party of Euro­pean So­cial­ists (PES), may be too close to call.

The po­lit­i­cal think­ing is that EU lead­ers should not “abide” by the re­sults, but take the re­sults “into ac­count”. The big­gest chal­lenge would be if PES can­di­date Martin Schulz wins the elec­tions, diplo­mats say, im­ply­ing that if the EPP can­di­date JeanClaude Juncker gains the up­per hand, Europe’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship would be hap­pier.

In the case of a clear win­ner, a likely re­sult would be for EU lead­ers to state that they would pro­pose this can­di­date to Par­lia­ment, where he should be able to get a clear ma­jor­ity. In that case, cur­rent Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Her­man Van Rom­puy would get a man­date to dis­cuss the process with mem­ber states, and with the MEPs. The for­mer Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter is an ad­vo­cate of ap­point­ing an “out­sider” as Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent, rather than one of the EU elec­tions leading can­di­dates, or “Spitzenkan­di­dat­ten”.

As the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment is ex­pected to elect its new pres­i­dent in July, EU lead­ers would pre­fer that the Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent is elected be­fore, in or­der to avoid de­cid­ing on a pack­age of ap­point­ments at that stage. Mem­ber states are more in favour of dis­cussing a pack­age of po­si­tions, in­clud­ing de­ter­min­ing the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, EU for­eign af­fairs chief and Pres­i­dent of the Eurogroup, in Septem­ber.

If Juncker wins the elec­tions, he has rea­son­ably good chances of get­ting the Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent job. If Schulz wins, his chances are smaller, be­cause it is less likely that he will get a qual­i­fied ma­jor­ity of the heads of state and govern­ment. Re­gard­ing lib­eral ALDE can­di­date Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt, diplo­mats dis­carded his chances of win­ning such a ma­jor­ity.

But the most likely de­vel­op­ment would be that nei­ther of the Spitzenkan­di­dat­ten emerge in strong po­si­tion, and that EU lead­ers will pro­mote a can­di­date from out­side. The name which has been fre­quently men­tioned re­cently is that of La­garde, EurAc­tiv was told.

The cur­rent IMF chief is EPP-af­fil­i­ated, but ap­par­ently this is not seen as an ob­sta­cle, de­spite the fact that France is gov­erned by the So­cial­ists.

An­a­lysts have also pre­dicted that none of the three Spitzenkan­di­dat­ten is likely to be­come Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent.

Schulz, who continues to lead the par­lia­ment while he is cam­paign­ing, has made it clear that the next par­lia­ment would not vote in sup­port of a can­di­date ap­pointed be­hind closed doors. Ger­man Vice Chan­cel­lor Sig­mar Gabriel, a So­cial Demo­crat, has re­cently warned against propos­ing an out­side can­di­date, say­ing that such move by EU lead­ers would “de­stroy EU democ­racy”.

How­ever, diplo­mats ap­pear to sug­gest that the EU elec­torate would un­der­stand such a move, if it’s prop­erly ex­plained.

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