The EU’s centre-right alliance is determined to challenge French President Emmanuel Macron in the race to nominate the next president of the European Commission, Bloomberg reported, citing senior party officials.
European conservatives were infuriated after Macron refused to approve German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s candidate, Manfred Weber, a deputy head of her center-right sister party, Christian Social Union (CSU), to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission chief at last week’s summit in Brussels.
According to the sources, the French president is trying to undermine the conservatives’ role despite the fact that they won the most seats in the next EU Parliament.
MEP Daniel Caspary, head of Germany’s conservative delegation in the European Parliament, has accused Macron of taking an “anti-German” stance and “doing everything he can to destroy European democracy” by opposing Weber’s candidacy.
“We are fighting to keep the lead candidate process intact and to have Manfred Weber as the president of the European Commission”, Caspary told Der Spiegel.
Merkel’s favoured successor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has as well reiterated that the conservative party would “still stand by Manfred Weber” despite other countries saying no.
After his candidacy suffered a major blow on Friday, Weber called on MEPs to push back against decisions made in “diplomats’ back rooms” in an interview with Die Welt.
“Citizens sent a clear signal by voting in the European elections. The turnout rose massively, in some places doubled. It would be very disappointing now if major decisions in the EU would take place in diplomats’ back rooms. Now it is up to the MEPs. I really hope that the socials and liberal MEPs show that they stand for Parliamentary democracy in Europe. It would be tragic if they put the interest of some capitals above the interests of a newly elected strong European Parliament”, he said.
Following the Friday vote, Macron made it clear that he was not against a “German candidacy” – he would’ve been happy to support Merkel, and added that he doesn’t “veto candidates because they belong to a political party”, instead he blocks them based on the lack of required competence for the job.
“It appeared clearly this morning that there was no majority for Mr Weber. This step was necessary considering the level of tension we had reached because of this obsession over a party organisation that did not fit with Europe’s democratic reality. I have nothing against a German candidacy. I said it and it wasn’t a joke, had the chancellor been a candidate, I would have supported her, because I think she has the qualities, the skills to be a very good president of the Commission. It is not what she wants, I respect that very deeply”, he explained.
Under existing EU rules, member states choose who will run the commission in place of outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker, and the European Parliament must green-light that choice.
Macron has long sought to ditch the so-called Spitzenkandidat system, which was first used to appoint Juncker in 2014 and stipulates that the lead candidate from the largest European Parliament party should be eligible for the post.
The French president, for his part, supports another system that would allow it to hand EU heads of state the right to choose the Commission president.
After failing to pick a candidate last week, top EU officials decided to gather again on 30 June to give it another try.