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Spitzenkandidaten: Another match lost for Macron

In European politics it’s not that easy to determine who has won after a fight.

Politicians tend to claim victory when they get back home – whatever the result. But at home, there is no referee, so it’s better to ask the adversary.

Germany reckons Macron has won a few matches. The posted workers directive, the European defence fund are accepted as Macron’s catches. “That was all done to please him, and that was not easy”, underlines a government source in Berlin.

But the same source also grins at the idea of a eurozone budget. Or a tax for GAFA only. Both of them have supposedly been secured during the last eurogroup meeting of the year. However the eurozone budget is tiny and for later. The tax for GAFA is also smaller than planned, and might be started in 2021.

But there is another match Macron has also lost. It’s the “Spitzenkandidaten” one. From the beginning, Macron’s force En Marche was not happy about this experiment first made in 2014. Deciding in advance that the winner of the EP election will lead the European Commission gives a lot of power to European party obtaining the larger number of votes across the EU.

The European Popular Party (EPP), the mainstream center-right force, has all the chances to keep the power in the long run if everybody else agree with that rule. The Germans being the largest force of the EPP, the chances to have a German-ruled European Commission are huge.

This situation is not great either for Macron or for France. But he hasn’t managed to change anything.

 “We have a right-wing Spitzenkandidat, a socialist one, and two green Spitzenkandidaten. That makes a case for the center to have one or two also. Or they won’t be taking part in the political debates”, a MEPs says. At least 3 public debates will be organised, some of them broadcast live.

The ALDE center party, partner of La République En Marche, shall meet in February for a congress. They will most likely nominate two Spitzenkandidaten as the Greens did, with Guy Verhofstadt and Margrethe Vestager, because the pressure is mounting even in France.

Vestager and Verhofstadt will not be in a great position: they could target a third position at best, behind EPP and the socialists. But if the Parliament refuses to give its confidence to Manfred Weber, the EPP candidate, center candidates could gather more support. “If it’s complicated, the center will be called to the rescue”, an EP pundit says.

Michel Barnier (EPP) could also be called upon as his handling of the Brexit has given him a strong EU credibility.

Macron has lost the Spitzenkandidaten battle, but he has not totally lost next European Commission yet. And that is why the subject of Hungary and EPP’s support to Viktor Orban be a major fight for La République En Marche: if it blows up next European Parliament, Barnier or a center candidate, all close to France, could end up organising a green-red-blue mainstream coalition. That makes the Spitzenkandidaten battle worth losing.

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