Metsola will get a top job, but not the Commission
Welcome to EU Politics Decoded where Benjamin Fox and Eleonora Vasques will bring you a round-up of the latest political news in Europe and beyond every Thursday. In this edition, we look at the early positioning for the EU top jobs following next June’s European elections.
Editor’s Take: Metsola will get a top job, but not the Commission
Roberta Metsola will probably get one of the top EU jobs following next year’s European elections but it probably won’t be the one that her supporters have been pushing.
The European Parliament chief has been astute in using the Qatargate corruption scandal and the war in Ukraine to elevate her profile as a leader.
However, those who believe that she will push herself as a candidate for the European Commission presidency on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP) are looking in the wrong direction.
First, the Commission president has always had experience either at the top or at least in high national government office. Ursula Von der Leyen was an experienced defence minister in Germany.
Second, Metsola is a member of the centre-right nationalist party – currently in opposition – in Malta. The government in Valletta is almost certain to nominate a Labour politician to the next EU executive.
Like EPP leader Manfred Weber, who was the EPP’s failed Spitzenkandidat in 2019, Metsola has no experience as a minister in Malta. Logic dictates, therefore, that von der Leyen looks like the strongest candidate and most likely for a second mandate should she seek it – and her officials say she does want another term.
Metsola’s effectiveness as Parliament chief makes it hard to imagine that she would accept a return to the status of a backbench MEP. But there are two viable options available if she plays her cards well.
First is a second mandate as president of the European Parliament. Martin Schulz set a precedent for two terms in the job and, in a parliament that is likely to have a stronger right-wing majority than at present, the unwritten rule of alternating a socialist and an EPP president could easily be quietly abandoned.
The second option is to replace Weber as president of the EPP group and party, which will be determined by the group after the elections.
Weber, who has long harboured his own ambitions for a top EU job, has mentioned Metsola as a possible Spitzencandidat for the EPP. However, pushing her name publicly, and at such an early stage of the pre-election campaign, could be a ploy. The early favourite is rarely the winner.
These are mere speculations ahead of the party congress season and, for several European parties, the start of the primary process.
The liberal ALDE party will meet in Stockholm later this month, while the EPP’s congress is in June. But the positioning and shadow boxing among potential candidates for the Spitzenkandidat positions and other EU top jobs is well underway.
Tight race in Turkey. It may be outside the EU but Turkey’s presidential elections on 14 May could be hugely significant for the bloc. Opinion polls suggest that President Recep Erdogan is in a near dead heat with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party ahead of the first round of polls.
We need to think about Swexit. Sweden’s European Union membership needs to be “reviewed”, the influential Eurosceptic Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson told Aftonbladet in an interview on Tuesday (2 May).
Austro-Italian migration pact. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome on Tuesday to discuss cooperation on immigration and asylum and migration, ahead of a June EU summit where migration policy will be high on the agenda.
UK’s migrant ‘nervous breakdown’. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has poured petrol on simmering UK-Albanian relations, remarking that the UK is having “a nervous breakdown” over its failure to get a grip on immigration.
Which EU presidency? 44% of Spaniards are unaware that Madrid will take over the six-month EU Council presidency in July, while only 28% know what the rotating EU presidency is, according to a new survey by the think tank Elcano.
Time to rebuild EU-UK ties, say Lords. UK lawmakers have urged EU and UK officials to gradually rebuild relations following a period of “tension and mistrust”, putting visa access for musicians and speedy UK access to the Horizon Europe research programme at the top of a list of policy fixes.
Inside the institutions
NGOs say ‘no’ to EU foreign agents’ rules. Civil society groups have urged the European Commission not to table new rules based on the US Foreign Agents Registration Act that would require NGOs to disclose if their funding comes from outside the EU in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.
Nein to Spitzenkandidaten. The Bavarian conservative Christian Social Union’s (CSU) call for the lead candidate principle to be dropped in next year’s EU elections has caused a stir in Germany which has long been one of the strongest advocates for Spitzenkandidaten.
Conservative kingmakers. The conservative nationalist ECR group could be a kingmaker in the next European Parliament with 85 seats, new projections for the next European elections in 2024 show. The centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D are expected to remain the two largest political groups with 165 and 141 seats respectively.
Rule of law games. The governing Spanish Socialist party and centre-right opposition Partido Popular are undermining the rule of law in Spain by playing a “card trading game” with the country’s judiciary, public institutions and the public media, warned liberal MEP Maite Pagazaurtundúa.
What we are reading
Carlos Lopes argues in Project Syndicate that the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism could actually help African exports.
Lord Kinnoull explains how future EU-UK relations can quickly improve after two years of tensions and mistrust for UK in a Changing Europe.
In Unherd, Peter Allen contends that the violent protests in France over President Macron’s pension reforms are giving Macron a political win.
The next week in politics
At the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will address MEPs on Wednesday (10 May). Lawmakers will also focus on Monday on potential reform of the bloc’s so-called ‘own resources’ as part of the EU budget.
Elsewhere, EU foreign ministers will meet in Sweden for an Informal meeting next Friday (12 May).
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to contact us for leaks, tips or comments, drop us a line at [email protected] / [email protected] or contact us on Twitter: @EleonorasVasques & @benfox83