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



34 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    catherine benning

    Was the Spitzenkandidaten process pointless?

    This person claiming democratic rights to lead Europe must be political scrutinised prior to taking office. Motives, aims, past history, birth. All must be seen by the European peoples to insure they are getting exactly what they are voting for.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    “I swear to serve loyally the Federal Republic of Germany and to defend bravely the justice and the freedom of the German people. So help me God”

    Such oath, affirmation or very similar undertaking is a requirement by every high ranking National government Member (e.g. defense Minister) in Europe and globally.

    How does such “national oath” harmonize and not conflict with the EU requirement of a similar oath to pledge solidarity to the present EU aka future USE in progress- which has the “destruction” of the Nation States on its agenda?

    This politician of the federal German “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” is fully “weaponised” to become a convinced and confessed supporter of a future federal USE- practically a “double Federalist agent”

    Who’s concern should that be? Germany’s and/or all of us?

    The EU “nominated political graduate” (not yet EP elected) seemingly has the least concern! To hold any EU political office seems the strongest force there is in Euroland.

    Stronger even than ones conscience and previous oath to ones country!

  3. avatar
    Michael

    Yes. Like so much of the brusselocracy. The entire EU is dysfunctional as it stands. Either we’re a union or league. We can’t be both, or all things to all people.

  4. avatar
    HJo

    Who cares, the Spitzenkandidat process is equally undemocratic. We need to be able to vote in Europe regardless of country borders. Every European needs to be allowed to candidate wherever (s)he wants to. We need to choose our leaders in a direct vote. In the meantime Uschi is qualifyed and a the first woman, a placeholder but a better one then her reputation.

    • avatar
      Gustav

      it would be democratic if the heads of states (elected by their countries voters) of the union agreed on a candidate, and then put that to a vote in parliament, which is elected by the European voters.

  5. avatar
    Chris

    Congrats to the Lady!!! Processes are point less the moment any taxi driver has a fuctional solution to any problem bureaucrats lack to cover smoothly, effectively, efficiently. Thus we better open the door to real life people. The political land scape its already full of lobbists and front men. Thanks & hope she bridge gaps for the benefit of all.

  6. avatar
    Gabor

    it’s the most worst choice ever! Germans play in the EU and with the EU a very bad and disgusting play. She is a totally incompetent person, absolutely loser in every office! Made by Mutti! They Germans make of the cost of the democracy and constitutions of rights and states of many other members his own profit! It’s everything rotten and worst there by the bureaucrats in this Parliament! I’m very, very angry about it! Everybody play it here only for the german multis!? It’s true!? 😡😡😡

  7. avatar
    Laszlo

    It is not pointless, in the sense that there should be someone who represents the views of each party. Altough it is also clear that none of the “Spitzenkandidats” were worthy of the job of Commission President.

  8. avatar
    Paul

    A failed German politician who presided over a depressing decline in the bundeswher…. under a cloud of criticism by a parliamentary commission ….but hey ho, she’s german & a federalist, so perfectly suitable apparently
    Is this really the best EU can do to present it’s face to the other superpowers ?

  9. avatar
    Alexandre

    EU people voted for a non PPE representatives. Sad the States had not understand the need for change EU is calling. Was calling.. because next election will be just for exiters…

    • avatar
      Pedro

      election results place EPP as the most voted party…

    • avatar
      Alexandre

      If they cant rule alone, they are not majority.

  10. avatar
    Zoltan

    Was the spitzenkandidaten process pointless?

    Firstly whose idea was it to use this stupid word in the first place,and secondly to my knowledge it’s only ever been used once before and this produced a certain Jean Claude Junker, who is the very epitome of pointless.

  11. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Since the “Spitzenkandidaten process” is mainly considered pointless by the majority of voters (so it does appear….) it follows, that the whole process and system of EU governance is “similarly democratically pointless” and in need of serious reform! Why?

    How can it be that basically only the 3 to 4 most dominant national leaders in the EU Council do propose a “candidate”- while officially and transparently it should be the whole EU Council of 28? (Refer to DE: “Who will be the next EU Commission president? – dated 24th June19). What conundrum!

    The 2019 EU elections produced no majority to form a typically “responsible western style & functioning democratic government”. At best, the EU is cursed or blessed with a “hung parliament”. That democratic deficit doesn’t seem to bother the Council or the whole EU concept a bit? They are used to fiddle it- step by step!

    https://election-results.eu/european-results/2019-2024/

    Three EU parties- would need to form a coalition: the (EPP 24.23% + S&D 20.51%)= 44.74% plus a 3rd one. “The Renew Europe group” is the 3rd largest with 14.38% and should receive a prominent platform & acceptance in the EP- not EC & EP ridicule- as shown in the past by the EU “peace God” JCJ!

    Practice shows, that the “EU Council” is dominated by the 3 to 4 most “muscled ones” (see photo) who is the “ EU dog who wags the EP and EU’s tail”, dictates, growls and barks.

    It is obvious that only insiders within the EU Council have the power to determine the new version & procedure to crown an EU princess. This confirms that the EU will be unwilling to concede or implement any reforms of its “treaties” post 2019 elections.

    The lessons & options of such EU rigidity will hopefully be taken into consideration by the (informed) National electorate!

  12. avatar
    Neagu

    Why is it always Germans or West Europeans? Why are East European countries underrepresented? Political games to cover corruption. smh.

  13. avatar
    Tiago

    It is a shame! 1st in the european elections we should vote for the european parties not national ones, 2nd we would vote for the party candidate not someone appointed in a backroom…

  14. avatar
    Vasilis Vasilatos

    “Spitzenkandidaten” is not pointless. The thing is that because of not knowing the results of the election it should be predictable that “Spitzenkandidaten” process, some times may not run smoothly so a plan B should have been there. And this exactly is the problem of the EU leaders. That they don’t have a plan B in which everyone can agree when deadlines come. This leads to quick decisions that does not satisfy all the parties.Or partly satisfy them which leads to less responsibility when matters go wrong and “blaming game” starts. And that is exactly the root cause of EU problems.

    • avatar
      EU Reform- Proactive

      Hi Vasilis,

      lets acknowledge the fact that it was the EU Council of only 4 (not 28) who solely decided (rightly or wrongly) by nominating “their preferred” candidate- ignoring the previously “agreed” Spitzenkandidaten procedure between Council & the EP entered into after the 2014 election!

      This EU Council “upstaged the EP”- once again- by using an “illegal veto” to reject & preempt (a possible rejection or acceptance) a candidate by the EP- tantamount of gross mistrust towards the EP’s ability and the whole EU electorate.

      Being still in a preBrexit parliament of 751, the required majority to elect a candidate (now Ursula von der Leyen) is 376 votes. Will she make it?

      In a respected & mature democracy (such as the EU likes to demonstrate) any election criteria to such high position must/should be defined in law and made public far ahead of time. Therein lies an old EU dilemma= patchwork= step by step!

      Certain things are over regulated others under regulated! Plan A, B, C or X is “horsetrading”= political dilettantism- not worthy of any respectable “global body”!

  15. avatar
    Sabina Martha Heyman

    I have nothing against this candidate since I don’t know her and never heard about her. She might be a good option. BUT: the procedures should be respected if the EU wants to be taken seriously 😒. What happened now will not increase trust in the EU. Weeks of discussions about candidates and now, all of a sudden, someone completely unknown with not such a successful record in her home country, if we need to believe lots of her compatriots.
    It’s also a blame for the EU Parliament…

  16. avatar
    Maf

    What an advertising campaign… You are all so desperate the EP accept her… If she was legit this would not be needed. Anyway this was foreseen since the beginning and it explains choosing Webber… A sad circus it was and everyone now is trying to clean the slate. This was wrong and we all know it! Do we have other options? Probably not, and so we’ll stick with it. But they stabbed the European voters in the back with their games…the next elections will tell. But we are all getting tired of dishonesty and political games…

  17. avatar
    Joe

    The idea that the Spitzenkandidat system increases European democracy is a perversion if the idea of democracy. Most voters Hebe never heard of nor know the lead candidates. They vote on the basis of domestic political preferences.

    Fake democracy does nothing to help EU legitimacy in the eyes of voters. If anything it enhances cynicism.

    For the foreseeable future Europe will remain an inter-governmental entity. As such it is right that senior positions are decided by heads of state.

  18. avatar
    Patrice-Emmanuel SCHMITZ

    In my opinion, the Spitzenkandidaten process is not dead yet. It was just very poorly handled, especially by the largest party (EPP) designing a candidate with insufficient pan-European notoriety and experience. In addition, the absence of European lists on the ballots and no real European campaign made it difficult. At the contrary of Macrons’ letter (in 23 languages), the EPP program was unclear (i.e. enormous differences between Orban and many others). Last, the Renew Europe agenda itself was widely wrong: changing name and merging with ALDE after elections and not before! Finally only the Social Democrats with Timmermans and the maybe the Greens played the right game. Therefore, the Spitzenkandidaten process needs a reform, consistency regarding programs and trans-national lists. Five more years will not be too much…

  19. avatar
    Henrik

    The EU parliament‘s composition reflects the will of EU citizens. The EU Parliament will decide if it agrees with the proposal of the Council.
    This procedure is thus democratic and very transparent.
    We don’t have a federal EU. It is a Union of independent member states. These states joined the club because they knew the advantages of the membership.
    States are free to join the club or to leave it.

  20. avatar
    Corrado Pirzio-Biroli

    I fully agree with Schmitz. The Spitzenkandidat process has been killed by the EPP (largest party) selection of a candidate with no ministerial experience, noi communication skills and a poor campaign. Incidentally, the EPP might have wished to approve his nomination to Commission President (if Council had decided it) just to confirm the Spitzenkandidat system, although it might have hopefully failed to find a majority. The European Council’s choice of leaders is surprisingly good, has 50% women and includes the longest serving minister with the four Merkel governments.

  21. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    5 out 28 “EU Council members” are female= 17.8% at the moment.

    Considering that Austria’s Brigitte Bierlein is only interim Chancellor since June19 2019 until new election in September19- could bring this number down to 4 elected national members= 14.3%

    Being a very suitable agitator for & fully in the camp of “Pan European-ism” Ms. Brigitte Bierlein has to be “elected” on national level first- before- maybe one day- “appointed” on EU level.

    The mentioned 50% is inaccurate and confirms that “Pan European-ism” is not an option, but the prescribed norm & type of EU governance -without explicit consent from the electorate. How is that possible?

    https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/members/

    Does disseminating wrong facts promote Pan European-ism or harm it?

  22. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    A devoted warmonger could not become President of EC

  23. avatar
    Peré

    It only becomes pointless if the parliament does not enforce it.

  24. avatar
    Maria

    Every body talks about climate change, and Taxes. Is this EU?

  25. avatar
    Paul

    It will be if the parliament fails to show some guts to prevent a franco/German hegemony.

    • avatar
      Gabor

      You see, you need of course the fundamental right to the internet! 👍

    • avatar
      Paul

      its not a “right”..its a commercial decision I made.

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