Was it all pointless? Is the Spitzenkandidaten process dead? After another marathon all-nighter at the European Council, European leaders have nominated German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen as the new President of the Commission. If approved by the European Parliament, she would be the first woman in history to hold the EU’s top job. Yet, obviously, she’s not what we were promised.
According to the so-called “Spitzenkandidaten” process, the candidates for EU Commission President were supposed to be nominated ahead of the elections, not decided afterwards in a backroom deal. Five years ago, the centre-right candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, became head of the commission after his party came first in the European elections. The Spitzen process was supposed to make the EU more democratic. However, some MEPs (particularly in the liberal ALDE group) argued the process had been sabotaged from the beginning because of the lack of “transnational lists”. Heads of state and government in the European Council also resisted, keen to retain their right to appoint a candidate.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had initially supported the process, backing first Manfred Weber, and then his rival, the social democratic Frans Timmermann. However, ultimately there was no majority for either in the European Council (and probably also not in the European Parliament). So, Ursula von der Leyen is the compromise candidate. Yet the European Parliament still has to confirm her, and many MPs don’t want to do that on principle.
Ursula von der Leyen is a committed European. She has said her aim is to help build a “United States of Europe”, she was born in Brussels, and speaks several languages fluently. On the other hand, her time as defence minister has not been judged a success; a Bundestag committee is currently investigating the improper use of outside consultants by her ministry. One can’t shake the impression that, once again, a high-ranking politician might be looking for a post in the EU because things aren’t going so well at home.
Was the Spitzenkandidaten process pointless? Will Ursula von der Leyen become the next EU Commission President? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
Image Credits: (cc) Flickr – U.S. Secretary of Defense