Who is the New European Commission Beholden To? What Brexit Implications?
Tom Luongo comments the New EU is Even More Insane than the Old EU.
But the problems are much deeper than Luongo reported.
To understand why, let's fill in some missing pieces on the mysterious rise of little known Ursula Von der Leyen who just replaced Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.
Rise of Von der Leyen
- Under the "Spitzenkandidat" process, the party with the largest share in the European parliament gets to nominate the head of the European Commission. That party was EPP and its candidate was Manfred Weber.
- French President Emmanuel Macron objected to the "Spitzenkandidat" process but on May 28, the Financial Times reported Merkel Defends Weber’s Run for European Commission President.
- Soon after defending Weber, Merkel dumped him, primarily at the insistence of Macron.
- On June 28, EU leaders fail to agree on who should lead the union.
- On June 29, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw her weight behind Socialist Frans Timmermans.
- The Timmermans idea blew up in Merkel's face precisely one day later on objections from Hungary and Poland because of Timmermans' role in rule of law probes against their nationalist governments.
- Macon then proposed Von der Leyen as the "compromise" candidate.
EU Parliament Vote
Von der Leyen was still not out of the woods yet. The European Parliament had to approve.
I estimated a 30% chance of failure even though a party vote showed overwhelming support for her.
European Commission Ballot
- Ursula von der Leyen
Yes, that was the entire ballot. And it was a secret ballot.
- Total MPs: 751
- Total MPs Present: 747
- Votes Needed: 374 (50% of those present)
- Votes Received: 383
- No Votes: 327
- Abstentions: 22
I can't get that to total up to 747 but that's what been reported, stitched together from various places. The key numbers, 383-327, are widely reported.
Pledges vs Votes
Eurointelligence offered these insights, emphasis mine.
- It is worth reflecting on the size of von der Leyen's majority. The numbers of pledges and the actual numbers don’t add up. The three centrist parties that purported to support her have a nominal seat count of 444. If you add the PiS and Five Star to that, you would have ended up with a nominal majority of about 100, instead of 9.
- The first important consequence is that von der Leyen will not be able to rely on a majority of the three centrist parties for her agenda. There is nothing new about shifting majorities in the European Parliament, but the numbers have changed with the latest elections. We expect more gridlock. And the position of the populists will be strengthened much beyond what the numerical representation of the groups would suggest. Expect no more Art. 7 proceedings against countries that breach the EU’s core values. The PiS came out of this as one of the EU’s new power brokers.One question to ask is whether von der Leyen and her behind-the-scenes handlers have made conflicting promises yesterday. We also wonder whether France shifting to support the Romanian Laura Codruta Kovesi for the job of the EU top prosecutor may have been part of the deal.
- On the issues that interest us the most - the eurozone, Brexit, transatlantic relations - the EP is not the main player. But it has co-decision rights in many areas of increasing relevance, like climate targets and industrial policy. We have a separate story on the issues facing the new commission president below. We normally like to keep a distance from the inter-institutional rivalries of Brussels. The European Parliament gained formal powers with each Treaty change revision. It gained informal powers through the spitzenkandidaten process in 2014. The latter is gone now. The formal powers remain unchanged. One of the issues to watch out for is whether the 2019 European elections will have led to a weakening of its actual powers relative to the European Council.
Who is Beholden to Whom?
Ursula von der Leyen had pledges of least 444 plus PiS plus 5-Star of which she managed to get precisely 383 votes.
More importantly what compromises and promises did she have to make to get elected?
First Consequence Already
"The first consequence of this came last night, when Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki demanded special consideration for Poland in the forthcoming EU budget. The price of von der Leyen's election will be revealed only over time. Our overall assessment is that the EU is headed for a long period of gridlock in matters that involve the European Parliament."
The above assessment is from Eurointelligence.
Luongo accurately assesses that Von der Leyen is more of a euro-integrationist than Juncker.
She supports a European army. She is the most Federalist candidate possible.
She is also an unknown. I suspect many voted for her simply because they wanted a woman or because they refused to vote against the first EC female, nominee.
Regardless, those in Hungary and Poland who backed her just might not understand the consequences. Italy, Poland, and Hungary will quickly get into feuds with the Commission regarding immigration policy, courts, etc.
And we have already seen the first set of demands. More will come.
Merkel a Caretaker Turkey
As accurately implied by the lead image, the era of Merkel and Jucker is over.
Support for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, AKK as she is widely called, is dwindling fast.
AKK is Merkel's hand-picked replacement to lead Germany when she finally bows out.
I do not believe AKK will ever govern. This is yet another consequence of Merkel's wheeling-and-dealing ineptitude.
SPD may pull the plug on Merkel at any time. Merkel has also had numerous shaking incidents recently. Her health is not good.
She is a caretaker turkey waiting for the axe to fall.
What About Brexit?
Finally, let's consider things from the pint of view of Brexit.
A reader pointed out just moments ago that Von der Leyen might offer a Brexit extension.
Actually, she already has. But France might not go along. And it was not her place to make such an offer.
But the point is moot.
EU cannot grant an extension unless asked. Boris will not ask. End of idea!
The already dysfunctional EU parliament just became more dysfunctional.
And the new EU Commission president will sow even more discord than Juncker.
Expect even more infighting accompanied by gridlock.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock