European Union watchers are bracing themselves for the political excitement of the next seven weeks. All major political parties will nominate their candidate for the European Commission Presidency, the key executive post, with the European People’s Party going last at its Dublin conference on March 7. The Greens are organizing debates this week between their four candidates. In the liberal-democrat race Olli Rehn just pulled the plug on his presidential ambitions in favour of Guy Verhofstadt who is now certain of the nomination. The social-democrats will confirm Martin Schulz, the current Parliament President, as their candidate at the end of February.
Once all nominations are done, candidates and their parties will have two and a half months to spell out their manifestos to the electorate of the 28 countries in the run-up to the May elections. All of this is a first for the EU, in an attempt to stir up more debate and personalize clashes between different policy visions.
No doubt this will lead to promises for change. However, once in office in the Autumn, the new Commission President will face heavy constraints to change the policy course of Europe. The budget is fixed for the period 2014-2020, so the next Commission will have to execute what was already decided. Continue reading