In a tell-all interview to New Europe’s editor Alexandros Koronakis, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker laid out the challenges that surround the controversial Spitzenkandidaten process for the election of his successor.
President Juncker was the first Commission President elected through the Spitzenkandidaten process – Brussels insiders are pessimistic as to whether the process will be followed through this time.
“I am a victim of this process, because I was the Spitzenkandidat of the [European People’s Party]. We made sure that this process would be observed until the very last moment although some Prime Ministers were very much objecting to this process,” Juncker said, reflecting on the then-new process that resulted in him leading the European Commission.
Just as in 2014, several members of the European Council still oppose the Spitzenkandidaten process, with a potentially larger and powerful number of heads of state being against it this time around than the last. This election, it remains a possibility that the Council could completely reject the Spitzenkandidat of the European party with the most members in the European Parliament post-26 May.
While commenting on the prospects of this year’s Spitzenkandidaten, Juncker expressed surprise and dismay over the decision of the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals in Europe (ALDE) to present seven individual top candidates, instead of a single one.
“That came as a surprise to me because [Guy] Verhofstadt, the leader of the Parliamentary Group of [ALDE], was in fact at the origin of the Spitzenkandidaten system, because he was a Spitzenkandidat too in 2014. And then suddenly they decided not to present a Spitzenkandidat but seven of [them]. They were inventing a story,” Juncker said. “They were saying [that] ‘as long as we don’t have transnational lists, we are not in favour of the Spitzenkandidaten system. They didn’t say that last time, and they knew perfectly well that it would not be possible to have transnational lists without a Treaty change. So this a major disappointment.”