The European Parliament has long sought to ensure that, by voting in European elections, European citizens not only elect the Parliament itself, but also have a say over who would head the EU executive – the European Commission. 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. The Parliament remains firmly committed to repeating the process in 2019 and 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 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. The serving term of the EC’s current President, Jean-Claude Juncker, is set to end in 2019, and a vote to elect a new president will occur in May 2019.
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).
Other parties, such as EAF or MENF, have not yet finalized their nomination and their candidates can be added as propositions. The debate focuses on candidates who are officially running for the post.