On Tuesday 9 April 2019, the European Parliament addressed the media in the first press event dedicated to the next EP elections. The event is a two-day conference (9-10 April) to speak to media on the most sensitive issues to be discussed during the elections campaign.
Many takes to shape the future elections have been discussed, among the most important of which: the Spitzenkandidaten procedure and Brexit.
- Geneviève Pons, Director at the Brussels office of Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute
- Maria Diaz Crego, European Parliament Research Service (EPRS)
- Philipp Schulmeister, European Parliament Directorate for Communication – Public Opinion Monitoring
Ms. Pons is an honorary Director of the European Commission, former expert in Delors’ last mandate in the EC. She addressed the issue of the Spitzenkandidaten, lately reprised in methodology by Maria Diaz Crego from the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS). The “main candidate” identifies the practice by which EP parties appoint its own candidate for President of the European Commission. It has been underlined that the SK is not a treaty-based procedure, but a practice acquired over time with an extensive interpretation given to Article 17(7) TEU. Each parliamentary group can elect or designate its own SK, whose name is made known to the electorate together with MEPs candidates. The presidential candidate – qualified as such only by the highest number of voters of his group in the EP – must obtain the approval of the European Council and later that of the EP itself. The important take underlined by both sides is that, given the non-treaty-based nature of the procedure, it is revealing to be particularly sensitive to the proper political dynamics of the Parliament. As such, the method is likely to be enacted differently with respect to the iterfollowed in 2014 with the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker. Ms. Pons stressed in particular the pivotal role ALDE and The Greens will have in choosing the Commission’s President. As shown by Mr. Schulmeister, stats project ALDE to roughly 105 seats in the next EP, making Guy Verhofstadt’s liberals gain the role of third pole. Alongside with a significant loss of votes in the actual governing majority (S&D + EPP), ALDE can have a voice in the Spitzenkandidatenissue by reshaping the preferences. Manfred Weber – the actual SK for the EPP – is thus not as sure to be appointed as Juncker was in 2014, coming both from the first party of the hemicycle.
- Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator – Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU
Brexit was the most attended matter also because the topic was approached by Mr Michel Barnier (Chief negotiator – Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU). Mr. Barnier started the intervention by clarifying that the Withdrawal Agreement is a zero-sum game, in which neither the EU nor the UK could earn positive results. Without prejudice the possibility for MSs to leave the EU, it should be done having a withdrawal and post-withdrawal plan. EU leaders, with the UK government, are working to make optimal divorce considering citizens protection and the accords compliance. According Mr. Barnier words, when the United Kingdom will leave the Union, will lose all privileges obtained since the accession in 1973. The cherry-picking policy for the UK is ended. All the future agreements will be done considering the UK as third state outside the EU. The best scenario for the upcoming period is building relations on the Norwegian cast. Barnier’s wish is the withdrawal process will be completed as soon as possible, in order to start a new chapter for EU-UK relations.
Other point stressed by the commissioner is the idea whether the UK (as then happened) will leave definitely the EU before the Parliamentary elections -23/26 May 2019- the EU parliamentary composition will be the same of what we had in the last legislative period.
That given, the official deadline of Brexit was set for the 29 March 2019, the widespread idea was the reallocation of the UK seats to others MSs.
Federico Dante De Falco