The parliament has been dominated by an effective grand coalition between the centre right and centre left for decades. But with the UK Labour Party exiting and the centre right under increasing pressure from populist parties, it’s unclear what kind of result will emerge next year. Even if the European People’s Party remains the leading force, as is widely expected, it’s unlikely to enjoy the same sway it does now. That’s one reason why whomever the EPP selects as its Spitzenkandidat won’t be a guarantee for the presidency.
Commission, Council and ECB
In the months following the vote, the parliament will oversee the appointment of a new European Commission. The top job at the Commission will become part of the negotiations for other big posts that become open next year, for example, the presidency of the European Council, the bloc’s foreign policy and security chief and a leader of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.
More critically, before these positions are occupied, there are still competing visions within the soon-to-be EU27 that must be ironed out. Especially over the role of the European Commission. Newcomer to the table, French President Emmanuel Macron favours a more activist executive, others, including several Eastern European countries and Merkel’s Germany, are wary of vesting the Commission with even more political clout fearing it will reduce power at national level.
So far, most attention has focused on Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator. A former French foreign minister, Barnier tried to edge out Juncker in 2014 for the EPP nomination but fell short. This time round, if he manages to negotiate a Brexit deal that both limits the damage to Europe and puts the future EU-UK relationship on solid footing, he could be hard to overlook. His position as chief negotiator has helped him build relationships with leaders across the EU, an advantage no other candidate is likely to have.