It’s not been a good few weeks for European leaders as a wave of anti-European sentiment has swept the continent following European Parliament elections, prompting a summit of EU leaders in Brussels to discuss the future of the Union, and who will be the next President of the EU Commission.
The President of the European Commission serves as its head, and is the most powerful officeholder in the EU, who determines the Commission’s policy agenda and legislative processes. A position that will ultimately have a great deal of influence on the nature of the EU’s impact on the UK. The various groupings in the European Parliament each put forward a candidate for the presidency, although exceptionally in the case of the European Green Party, there are two candidates for the position.
Current President Jose Manuel Barroso will step down later this year as his second five-year term comes to an end, and all of the seven candidates put forward by the Parliamentary groupings are controversially either European federalists or in favour of further EU integration, much to the dismay of David Cameron. The Prime Minister has made it well known that he is seeking to renegotiate powers back from Brussels ahead of a referendum in 2017 if the Conservatives win next year’s General Election.
The current frontrunner for the presidency is the centre-right European People’s Party’s Jean- Claude Juncker, a European federalist and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. His nomination has been backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has undoubtedly dealt a blow to David Cameron as he seeks support for a less powerful EU Commission. However, endorsement from EU leaders is only part of the job, as Juncker will also seek a majority from the European Parliament, which could prove challenging following the election of both left and right-wing Eurosceptics across the continent.
Given the success of UKIP in the recent elections and the importance of the EU as a political and electoral issue in the UK ahead of the General Election the outcome of the contest could have major implications for our own political leaders.