Selection for European Union’s leading positions following 2019 European Parliament elections

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Publication Date 2019
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Reports, analyses and information regarding the process by which the leading figures of the main institutions of the European Union (EU) are selected, following the European Parliament elections in May 2019.

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The European Parliament elections - held between 23-26 May 2019 - produced a number of relevant changes in its composition and balance of political power. The outcome of the election was seen by analysts as a major factor influencing the selection of the figures set to lead the main institutions of the European Union - Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Central Bank (ECB), as well as the EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs.

One of the main questions resides on the impact of the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process, which led the main political groups to nominate lead candidates prior to the election. These figures would theoretically be the main candidates to lead the European Commission. However, some members of the European Council signalled their resistance in accepting that process as it would restrict the pool of potential candidates. Another sticking issue has to do with gender equality, together with a proportional distribution of the leading positions across the different European regions.

The process was launched during an informal meeting of the European Council on 28 May. A group of six national leaders - representative of the three biggest political groups in the new composition of the European Parliament - was informally designated to further discuss the distribution of the top jobs. A number of senior figures emerged across media outlets as potential candidates for these positions. Despite lengthy negotiations, an overall agreement was not reached at the European Council summit on 20 June. The balance of powers between the main political groups, as well as the role of the Spitzenkandidaten process, were the main sticking points in the talks between the national leaders.

A special meeting of the European Council was held on 30 June 2019 to attempt a deal on the EU top jobs. Negotiations lasted for a number of hours into the following day, to no success. An overall agreement was eventually reached on 2 July. The European Council proposed Germany's Ursula von der Leyen for the presidency of the European Commission, France's Christine Lagarde to head the European Central Bank (ECB) and Spain's Josep Borrell as the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. These names would eventually require endorsement by the European Parliament. Belgium's Charles Michel was elected as President of the European Council.

At its constituent session on 4 July, the European Parliament expressed its reservations over the selection process for the leading positions of the main institutions of the European Union. Ms von der Leyen engaged in talks with the political groups at the Parliament, ahead of the confirmation vote later in the month. Following the presentation of a statement presentation her political guidelines for the mandate 2019-2024 and a plenary debate, the European Parliament confirmed on 16 July the proposed name of Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission, with 383-327 votes.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
Open Europe: Blog, 31/05/2019: The selection of top EU jobs explained
Euro|topics, May-July 2019: Is the tug of war over top posts harming the EU?
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Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 04/06/2019: Time for Strong New EU Leaders
EurActiv, 05/06/2019: MEPs should not approve a Commission President lacking a sustainability agenda
BBC News, 10/06/2019: Who will replace European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker?
ING: Opinion, 12/06/2019: Europe’s new political landscape to determine top EU jobs candidates
Politico, 17/06/2019: Draft Merkel!
BBC News, 29/06/2019: Who's in the running for Juncker's post and other EU top jobs?
The Economist: Charlemagne's Notebook 01/07/2019: The EU is struggling to agree on candidates for its biggest jobs
Politico, 01/07/2019: How Merkel’s plan for EU top jobs fell apart
The Economist: Charlemagne's Notebook, 02/07/2019: EU leaders settle on a new team to run the club
Politico, 03/07/2019: Winners and losers in race for EU top jobs
EurActiv, 03/07/2019: Charles Michel, the compromise builder
The Guardian, 03/07/2019: The Guardian view on Europe’s top jobs: the good, the bad and the compromise
Euro|topics, July 2019: No top EU jobs for Eastern Europe
Euro|topics, July 2019: The right people for the EU's top jobs?
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EPRS: At a Glance, July 2019: (Non-)replacement of Commissioners elected to EP
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EurActiv, 20/06/2019: France and Germany still at odds over EU top jobs
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Reuters, 01/07/2019: Working the night shift, EU leaders try to fill top jobs
EurActiv, 01/07/2019: Macron condemns EU Council summit as failure
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EurActiv, 04/07/2019: MEPs furious over Council’s ‘backroom horse-trade’ on EU top jobs
The Guardian, 04/07/2019: 'Not the best candidate': Germans condemn own choice for top EU job
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EurActiv, 07/07/2019: Greens set conditions to approve nominee von der Leyen
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EUObserver, 09/07/2019: Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination
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BBC News, 10/07/2019: Ursula von der Leyen, nominee to head EU, 'hopes UK abandons Brexit'
EurActiv, 10/07/2019: Von der Leyen endures day of grilling by MEPs ahead of confirmation vote
EUObserver, 11/07/2019: Greens reject von der Leyen's EU commission bid
EurActiv, 11/07/2019: New EU chief nominee says Brexit could be delayed – again
Politico, 16/07/2019: Ursula von der Leyen’s narrowly won homecoming
Deutsche Welle, 16/07/2019: Germany's von der Leyen voted new European Commission president
Reuters, 16/07/2019: Germany's Von der Leyen secures powerful EU executive top job
EurActiv, 17/07/2019: Von der Leyen pressed to deliver on climate after winning EU vote

General Secretariat of the Council: Nomination process for new heads of EU institutions in 2019
European Council: European Council conclusions, 30 June - 2 July 2019
European Council: Press Release, 02/07/2019: European Council appoints new EU leaders
European Council: Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the special meeting of the European Council on 30 June - 2 July 2019
European Parliament: Election of Commission President
European Commission: Opening Statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session by Ursula von der Leyen, Candidate for President of the European Commission, 16 July 2019
European Commission: Political guidelines for the next Commission (2019-2024) - 'A Union that strives for more: My agenda for Europe'

ESO Records
Changes to European Parliament composition following 2019 EP election

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