Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen Nominated as Next EU Commission President, France’s Christine Lagarde as ECB Chief
The EU leaders have disregarded almost entirely the preferences of the European Parliament in favor of the spitzenkandidaten system.
Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has surprisingly been nominated by the leaders of the EU member states to become the next President of the European Commission, while Christine Lagarde of France, currently IMF head, has been nominated to become the next chief of the European Central Bank.
Both Ursula von der Leyen and Christine Lagarde will become the first women to lead the respective EU institutions – if their nominations are confirmed by the European Parliament.
The surprise choice of Von der Leyen came after the EU leaders failed to reach an agreement on any of the frontrunners after a three-day emergency summit over the weekend that had to be broken up on Monday after failing to produce a compromise.
Under the new arrangement, Belgium’s liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel will become the next President of the European Council succeeding Donald Tusk of Poland.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell Fontelles has been nominated to become the next EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.
The position of the President of the European Parliament will likely go to Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party and Germany, who was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favorite to be the next Commission President but was rejected by French President Emmanuel Macron, and to former Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of the European Socialists, with the two splitting the five-year term.
Except for Charles Michel’s appointment as President of the European Council, all other nominations for the top EU jobs are subject to a confirmation by the European Parliament.
“We have agreed the whole package before the first session of the European Parliament,” outgoing European Council President Tusk stated on Tuesday night.
He revealed that Germany had abstained on Von der Leyen’s nomination over issues inside the country’s ruling right-left grand coalition, although Merkel herself had supported her.
“Von der Leyen is a very good candidate and a very good choice to head the European Commission,” French President Emmanuel Macron said, as cited by BBC News.
He declared the nominations for the top EU jobs “the fruit of a deep Franco-German entente”.
“[Ms. Lagarde’s] capacities and competences… totally qualified her [for the position of ECB President,” Macron added with respect to the former French Finance Minister who has been the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 2011.
Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination received not just the strong support of French President Macron, whose original favorite was the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, but also of the Visegrad Four, the key Central European EU member states of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.
“That’s a very important statement that Europe leads on gender equality. It might have taken three days, but it’s a good outcome overall,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters, as cited by France24.
Some Members of the European Parliament, however, were quick to make known their disgruntlement over the decision of the EU state leaders to ignore the so called spitzenkandidaten, i.e. the lead candidates of the each of the political party families in the EU legislature.
“It won’t be easy in parliament,” said outgoing EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is to step down on October 31 as head of the Commission.
“It’s always a huge question mark. This is why we have parliaments,” European Council head Tusk said in turn with respect to the process in which the EU Parliament is supposed to confirm the top EU job nominees by a simple majority.
The parliamentary group of the Greens was especially discontent with the nominations of the EU member state leaders.
“[The arrangement] fails to respect the lead candidate process and the results of the European elections. We need a political change in Europe. The EP must decide on its Presidency independently from EU governments,” the Greens tweeted.
Iratxe Garcia, who leads the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, described the nominations as “unacceptable”, as cited by DW.
“Our group has remained firm in the defense of European democracy and the leading candidate process,” she stated.
(Banner image: Donald Tusk on Twitter)