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European parties meet to decide future presidential nominees for EU

  • Abdulaziz Ahmet YASAR
  • 9 Nov 2018

European parliamentary parties are meeting ahead of the May 2019 elections to decide who their candidates will be to lead the EU.

( Reuters )

The European Parliamentary (EP) elections will be held in May 2019. More than 500 million people across Europe will vote for 751 Member of European Parliament (MEP) seats from 28 different member states.

Nationally registered parties, as well as independent members, can be candidates for a seat and all parties entering the EP need to join a European parliamentary group, to speak for a common agenda.

Therefore, parties are organised in different political groups, from left to right.

The largest two parliamentary groups are the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (D&A), also named Party of European Socialists (PES). 

Currently, there are eight parliamentary groups. These groups form coalitions to establish a cabinet government - the European Commission (EC).

In other words, European citizens will not only decide who will legislate the EU budget for the next five years but also who will lead a cabinet of 28 commissioners (EU-level ministers), replacing current Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Source: European Parliamentary Research Service()

The EPP

The largest parliamentary group - the centre-right EPP - held its party congress to decide its next EC president candidate in Helsinki on Friday.

There were two leading candidates for the role of EU commission president: Manfred Weber and Alexander Stubb.

Weber, the 46-year-old German and chairman of the EPP parliamentary group has so far received support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz.

He follows a stronger conservative agenda, promising to bring Europe back to all regions of the EU.

His rival is Stubb, the former finance minister and prime minister of Finland. 

The 50-year-old speaks of the ‘The Next Generation of Europe, addressing the digital revolution of 'our time' and the issue of climate change. 

He is pro-European, tackling the issue of migration and speaking for more prosperity within EU borders.

However, the two candidates differ in their emphasis on topics.

The political agenda of the EPP is a conservative, pro-European and predominantly neo-liberal one.

The upcoming months probably will reveal more the concrete steps being taken by the elected candidate and party leadership. 

The PES

The Party of the European Socialists (PES) will have its congress from December 7-8, in Lisbon.

But, its candidate seems already decided - the current EC Vice President Frans Timmermans, from the Netherlands.

The former Dutch foreign minister will reveal his political agenda for the EC president candidacy during the party's congress.

So far, what we know about him is that he had the main responsibility during the 2015 European migrant crisis, the rule-of-law dispute with Poland and he was supposed to lead the Brexit case within the Commission.

The Brexit file was later given to his French colleague Michel Barnier.
The political agenda of the PES has not yet been announced.

The Far-Right

Two party groups, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), are considered as far-right and Eurosceptic party groups in the EP.

The ECR has 73 MPs, with the British Conservative party and the Polish governmental party, Law and Justice, its two major partners.

The ENF group currently has 34 members and is the smallest parliamentary group. 

Its most famous national party member is the French far-right Front National and the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) from Geert Wilders.

Far-right parties lack the seats to set an anti-European, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration agenda in the EP.

However, their popularity has grown, a trend also observed in national parliaments. 

Turquoise: Right-wing populists represented in the parliament Blue: Right-wing populists involved in the government Dark blue: Right-wing populists appoint prime minister Source: Wikipedia()

This is the first and final term of Jean-Claude Juncker who will retire from politics in 2019 after serving between 2014-2019.

The next EU president will likely face multiple challenges that were unresolved by his predecessor including the migrant crises, rising racism, Islamophobia and a fracturing EU political project. The outcome of these elections will also likely see an emboldened right-wing presence in the European Parliament.  

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