August 28, 2014
Recently Jean-Claude Juncker was officially elected President of the European Commission. One year before the European Elections were scheduled, even the most fanatical federalist did not believe that the Primaries could really nominate the EU chief executive. It’s paradoxical, but even after the European elections of 25 May 2014, chances were over 50% for the winner to take the title.
After a series of disagreements, focusing more on “ideological pride” than actual system failure, finally the decision was made: “there will be primary elections for appointing candidates for the presidency of the European Commission in 2014”.
Controversy existed over the years in Europe on primary elections, but the efforts of those involved have not been in vain, and in June 2013, at the Council of the Party of European Socialists in Sofia (21-22 June 2013), PES announced their proposal for the Commission Presidency candidate 2014: Martin Schulz. In fact, much has been said about the primary election at the meetings of European Socialists, but in reality there was only one candidate from the very beginning, without European citizens or Left activists having a say.
Representing the European Liberals, according to an internal agreement and without organizing an impactful primary election, Guy Verhofstadt was proposed to be the candidate for President of the Commission, while party colleague Olli Rehn was positioned to one of the other EU leadership positions.
Traditionally two people, José Bové and Ska Keller, led the European Green Party campaign for the European elections in May, after they won the “on-line primaries”. Even if they were the most democratic elections from the all European parties, the Greens failed to mobilize voters. In the end only a few tens of thousands of people participating in the vote.
Alexis Tsipras was assured of the nomination for the European radical left.
Aware of its potential, the European People’s Party (EPP) did not enter the primary election game, but they mentioned that a candidate would be chosen at their congress on 6-7 March 2014, in Dublin. Without much glory, and of course without any impact on European citizens, Jean-Claude Juncker wins a battle with a candidate without any chance of nomination, even by France, Michel Barnier.
In this context the vision of the leader from Berlin should be mentioned. The idea of primary elections was strengthened when Angela Merkel entered “the nominations game”. We even witnessed a European paradox. Angela Merkel apparently supported the nomination for the position of President of the European Commission of the German Martin Schulz, as well as of Jean-Claude Juncker. Given that Germany has a grand coalition with CDU and SPD in power, Merkel supported the nomination of Schulz as European Commission President from Germany. On the other hand, from a party point, the European People’s Party, where Ms Merkel’s CDU is part of, has been open for a nomination battle. The German Chancellor has made her support for Jean-Claude Juncker public only a few days before the EPP Congress in Dublin (6 to 7 March 2014), and few days later it became the official candidate of the EPP – the first real sign that the primaries can really “produce” the next president of the European Commission.