What if the EPP chooses not to name a leader for the European elections?

  • Every political family has been invited to name a proposed leader for next May’s European elections, as candidates to succeed José Manuel Barroso.
  • The EPP will have enormous trouble deciding.

Will the European Peoples Party (EPP) drop a bombshell? Will the leading European political family, conservative and with Christian roots, decide not to name a leader for next May’s European elections as a candidate to succeed José Manuel Barroso as the head of the European Commission?

Officially, the designation of this candidate is at the heart of a special meeting for the EPP’s bigshots planned for mid November in Brussels. Several of the family’s heavyweights, led by Angela Merkel and Herman Van Rompuy, will be working behind the scenes to torpedo the idea.

“It’s not a good idea to try to choose a leader for all of Europe,” one good source explains. “What real legitimacy could someone have who isn’t a candidate in their own country and who isn’t known anywhere else? None!”

“All of it, in fact, is a power play by the European parliament, who wants to have the first word and the last word,” our source continues. It’s true that the Treaty of Lisbon planned that the European Commission president would be “elected” by the European deputies. That being said, although the Parliament wanted this process of designating leaders, the Commission itself officially proposed it.

The “anti-designation” group within the EPP has more prosaic factors to consider. Their political family includes several national leaders who could well succeed José Manuel Barroso, including Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (Angela Merkel’s current favorite), Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen, and so forth. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaité, another potential candidate, is not a member of the EPP, but is close enough.

Could these leaders declare themselves as candidates? What would happen to their image and their future if, beaten at the finish line, they return to their countries empty-handed? No one wants to take that risk. The EPP might find itself needing to designate a second-tier candidate, such as the current French European commissioner Michel Barnier. Would they then have to backtrack and allow another party to be propelled to Berlaymont’s thirteenth floor? That would be a catastrophic scenario for the family’s credibility.

“This whole business of designation is a series of little games between rival institutions,” our source concludes, “but the truth is that the balance of power is always in favor of the heads of state or government. They are the leaders, both of the European deputies and the political families. Based on the results of the European elections, they will decide who will succeed Barroso and who will succeed Van Rompuy and Ashton. They will form a ticket and no doubt include other nominations, taking into account all kinds of balances…”

The two other big European political families will find it less difficult to choose their candidate. For the socialists, the German Martin Schulz, current European parliament president, seems to be the choice. For the liberals, Guy Verhofstadt will probably be named. But what will the battle be like if there’s no EPP in the mix?

MAROUN LABAKI

 

 

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