European citizens have a say over the President of EU Commission by voting in European elections. EU Voters not only elect the Parliament itself but also take part in the lead candidate process. What became known as the ‘Spitzenkandidaten process‘ is a procedure whereby European political parties, ahead of European elections, appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the presidency of the Commission then going to the candidate of the political party capable of marshalling sufficient parliamentary support.
Member states will nominate a candidate for President. At the same time they must take account the European election results. Moreover, Parliament needs to approve the new Commission President by an absolute majority (half of the component members plus one). If the candidate does not obtain the required majority, the member states need to propose another candidate within a month. We have to keep in mind that European Council is acting by qualified majority.
The Commissioners-designate, who are proposed by the member states, and the Commission President-elect have to win the approval of Parliament. The European Commission can not enter into office at the beginning of November, without the needed approval of EU Parliament.
The Parliament remains firmly committed to repeating the process in 2019 and the attention has shifted to the European political parties. A number of parties have nominated lead candidates and this briefing gives an overview of their nominees, as well as looking more broadly at the process.
The Lead Candidates
The European Commission (EC) is the executive branch of the European Union. It is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU, making it vital to the functioning of the EU. There are two main candidates who have been nominated by the respective parliamentary factions through the Spitzenkandidaten system:
Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party group (EPP) and Frans Timmermans of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) who is the current First Vice President of the EC.
The other candidates: Jan Zahradil of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE), Ska Keller & Bas Eickhout of the European Green Party (EGP), the transnational candidates nominated by the Party of the European Left (PEL), Violeta Tomič & Nico Cué, and Oriol Junqueras of the European Free Alliance (EFA).
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