In Brussels, it's all happening. When the outcome of the European elections was definitively confirmed on Monday, negotiations in the European Parliament began on the succession of outgoing European Commission chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker. For the evening, the former faction leader of the conservative EPP Group, Manfred Weber, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens had invited to talk. After his top candidacy for the EPP, which had taken him across Europe in recent months, began for the CSU Vice this second phase in his mission – the fight for the office of President of the Commission.
Coalitions, as they are known on a national level, do not exist in the European Parliament. There has always been informal collusion between pro-European forces when it comes to defining political content and filling posts. Most important is the top job at the head of the European Commission, which is nominated for five years, as well as the Parliament President, who is elected for two and a half years.
For the first time since 1979, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats no longer have the absolute majority of seats in the European Parliament. Collusion thus becomes more difficult in the fragmented parliament. The strongest group is the Conservatives with 180 seats (minus 38), followed by the Social Democrats with 146 (minus 45), the Liberals with 109 seats (plus 42) and the Greens with 69 seats (plus 19). The majority of 376 seats will only be achieved if at least three pro-European factions pull together.
Vestager wants the chief post
One of those who made a stand in the race for the head of the European Commission on Sunday immediately after the announcement of the first European elections results was the Danish Margrete Vestager. The EU Competition Commissioner, who had made a name for herself in trials against US corporations like Google or Apple, appeared in Brussels in the evening. She stated that she wanted to become President of the Commission. However, the Commissioner also acknowledged that the necessary designation by Heads of State or Government or the European Parliament was a "tricky affair".
Vestager was part of the European elections in the framework of an EU-wide multi-headed "top team" of liberals. In Weber's camp, however, it is insisted that only one candidate could become Commission President, who – unlike the Danish Vestager – actually went through the top candidate procedure as a lone fighter.
Top candidate did not move in Germany
However, the top candidate model in the European elections from the point of view of CDU and CSU has not proven. Although the parties defend the top candidate with the argument that the European elections would be more attractive to the citizens, if they could also vote on the head of the European Commission. The election outcome in Germany refutes this thesis. Although the turnout increased massively – in Germany, an increase of 13 percentage points was recorded. But the German top candidate Weber scored in Germany a worse result for the Union than in the last European election. Frans Timmermans in the Netherlands showed that there is another way. The top candidate of the Social Democrats tripled the vote of his party compared to the recent elections in the neighboring country.
Despite the bitter losses for the EPP, Weber still has the best prospects among the top candidates when it comes to Juncker succession. The reason is that even if the EPP has to reckon with the departure of the deputies of the Hungarian ruling party Fidesz, the European People's Party will continue to be the strongest fraction in the Strasbourg semi-circle. Weber does not disclose that he is screwing back his claims in favor of second-placed Timmermans because of the damper in the election. Rather, he insists that his faction selects only one candidate who has already revealed in the election campaign "program, profile and personality".
Green politician Cohn-Bendit against Weber
Among those whom Weber must convince of his suitability for the post of Commission President are the Greens. From the German representatives of the eco-party different signals come when it comes to a possible support for the Lower Bavaria. However, the great Green Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is now one of the confidants of French President Emmanuel Macron, has clearly positioned himself. "I think it would be scandalous for the Greens to support Weber," Cohn-Bendit told the Tagesspiegel in view of the upcoming deliberations in the European Parliament. "Weber stands for the wait-and-see attitude of the Federal Government towards the reform plans of Macron," he said in support.
To make matters worse for Weber, that Macron has already made powerful mood against him in the circle of heads of state and government. On Tuesday evening, heads of state and government want to discuss the Juncker successor and other top personalities such as the future cast of the European Central Bank (ECB) head at a special summit in Brussels.
It is not expected that already on Tuesday a decision will be made. It is also clear that Macron is coming to Brussels weakened. The defeat of his movement against Marine Le Pen's right-wing populists is likely to diminish his influence among the leaders. For Weber, eight out of 28 heads of state and government speak out. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), who has never been an avowed fan of the top candidate, plays a key role. Since the CDU has aggressively campaigned for the Weaver in the European election campaign, but it would be interpreted as a betrayal of the voters, if they drop the CSU vice now in the circle of "bosses". For the benefit of Michel Barnier. The Frenchman has acquired himself as EU chief negotiator on Brexit Meriten and is considered a favorite of Macron.
Power struggle between parliament and the heads of state and government
Meanwhile, it is expected that in the European Parliament, the leaders of Conservatives, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens already today make the claim that the parliament elects only one Commission chief, who was previously the leading candidate in the election campaign. If that were the case, there would be a conflict between the Parliament and the heads of state and government, who have the right to nominate for the Juncker successor.