New EU Leaders

10 m.   |  2019-08-26

European Parliamentary elections of May 23-26, 2019 were followed by the nomination and election of representatives to key EU positions. During the special summit held on June 30-July 2, the Council of Europe nominated a candidate for the President of the European Commission, a candidate for the President of the European Central Bank and a candidate for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and elected European Council President. On July 3, the European Council already elected the European Council President and on July 16 approved the President of the European Commission.

Appointments in EU leadership positions

A fter the elections of the European Parliament, the first discussion on the nomination of candidates to key EU positions took place on May 28, during the first non-official meeting of the Heads of EU Member States. Later they met during the European Council’s Summit, but failed to agree on the nomination of candidates, as a result of which a decision was taken to continue the negotiations until June 30. An agreement was reached during the special meeting held in Brussels, in June 30-July 2.

European Council President

T he European Council’s President is elected by the qualified majority of heads of EU member states and runs for a two-and-a-half year term. Charles Michel was elected as the new President during the Special meeting of the European Council, held on 30 June–2 July. He has been elected for the period from December 1, 2019 until May 31, 2022. Charles Michele, a Belgian liberal politician, has been the Prime Minister of Belgium since 2014. He stands up for EU values, such as “solidarity, freedom and respect”. Charles Michele is an efficient negotiator and “reconciler”, who in December 2018 overcame the domestic crisis and stabilized the situation in Belgium.

On 18 July, 2015, the Prime Minister Charles Michele recognized the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the Government, during the plenary session of the House of Representatives of the Belgian Parliament and emphasized that the tragic events happened in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1917 must be described as genocide.

European Commission President

T he European Commission’s president is nominated by the European Council and later is approved by a simple majority vote in the European Parliament. During the European Council summit, Ursula von der Leyen was nominated as a commission president, who on July 16, was confirmed by a margin of 383 votes by the European Council. Being the first woman in this post, Leyen will replace Jean-Claude Juncker.  Ursula von der Leyen, a doctor by profession, joined the Christian Democratic Union in 1990 and held various positions, as well as the position of Minister of Family, Women, and Youth in Angela Merkel’s Cabinet until 2005. In 2009, she was elected as a member of the Bundestag and was appointed Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. In 2013, von der Leyen became Germany’s first woman Defense Minister.

Ursula von der Leyen thinks, that the Brexit process will be a huge loss for everyone, although after the deal the EU and Great Britain will still build a strong relationship. She expressed her willingness to extend the deadline for the Brexit process. Leyen also stands for environmental reforms and she will aim to promote greater gender equality and increase in salary. Von der Leyen actively supports the idea for “United States of Europe” and calls for an equal “burden” sharing in the issue of migration policy between the member states.

In 2016, during the meeting with journalists in Berlin, Ursula von der Leyen referred to the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide adopted by the German Parliament, critically allows one to open and look at one’s own past which will help create strong traditions in Germany.

Reuters / Francois Lenoir

European Central Bank President

T he European Central Bank is responsible for the monetary policy of the 19 EU member countries and is the central supervisor of the EU financial institutions.  The European Central Bank’s president is appointed by a qualified majority of the European Council. On July 2, the European Council came to an agreement on the appointment of a new ECB president. Christine Lagarde, currently managing director of the International Monetary Fund the first female figure in this position.   

Christine Lagarde, a French lawyer and conservative politician, has been the first woman to serve as Finance Minister of France (2007-2011), and is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund since 2011. On December 4, 2018, according to the Forbes publication, Lagarde ranked 3rd place in the Most Powerful Women list after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Teresa May. Christine Lagarde has played an important role within the IMF framework in assisting states on the verge of “collapse” such as Greece and Ukraine. During Greece’s financial crisis, Lagarde actively urged Europe to provide financial support to Greece, as Greece could not overcome the crisis on its own. For that purpose, the IMF provided Greece with a large number of loans. Due to the Christine Lagarde’s efforts, the IMF also provided Ukraine with a $40 billion international bailout in 2015 promoting economic stability.

High representatives of the union for foreign affairs and security policy

H igh representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy should shape and execute the EU’s foreign and security policy and should lead the EU’s diplomatic corps. The EU leaders appoint a candidate for this post by a qualified majority vote, which should be approved by the president of the European Commission. As a result of the EU Member States’ special summit held from June 30 to July 2, a Spanish socialist politician Josep Borrel was nominated for this position. Being a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Josep Borrel has served as European Parliament President from 2004-2007 and now occupies the position of Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. During the 2000 presidential elections in Spain, he had been a candidate of the socialist party, but withdrew his candidacy because of financial scandals. In 2015, he was again in financial scandal, and he was fined 30.000 euros in 2018.

Borrel has a negative attitude towards Russia calling them “an old enemy and a threat”. Being a sympathizer for Iran, Borrel has criticized US president Donald Trump, commenting on US Independence “as being very easy”, which they reached “by killing few Indians”. The Catalonian-born politician has always been against Catalonia’s independence and criticized the failed attempt of Catalonia’s independence in October 2017. Borrel criticizes Israel and recognizes the independence of Palestine statehood. He also treats China as an enemy.

European Parliament president

T he European Parliamentary president coordinates current projects and presides over parliamentary debates. President serves for two and a half year term. Parliament’s president is elected by the          MP’s absolute majority votes. On July 3, David-Maria Sassoli, member of the Socialists and Democrats party was elected president of the European Parliament, replacing Antonia Tajani. Italian politician Sassoli began his working career as a journalist. His political career started in parallel with the creation of Italy’s Democratic Party, and in 2009 was elected as a member of the same political party. In 2014, Sassoli participated in the elections of European Parliament and occupied the position of the European Parliament’s Vice President. Sassoli stands for “reducing space” between the citizens and institutes in EU and states that the EU needs serious reforms. He also supports the views of French President Emmanuel Macron on climate changes.

Main Trends

S ome trends have been noticed as a result of the processes launched after the European Council’s elections and appointments to key EU positions. Let’s refer to the most noteworthy:

  • After appointments to key positions, it became clear that the Greens and the Eurosceptics as well as some representatives of Eastern and Central Europe countries weren’t nominated, which caused dissatisfaction among those countries possibly affecting major discussion in Parliament. However, some senior executives from the Eastern and Central European countries expected that they will be appointed to the vice president’s or European Commission member’s posts. It is noteworthy, that the gender equality ensuring principle was preserved during the appointments to key positions.
  • Voting has become more unpredictable in the case of the absence of a clear majority in European Parliament. Sometimes some influential political groups (such as European Democratic Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) try to put a great emphasis on cooperation with some small forces (such as the Greens, the Conservatives and so on). This gradually leads to the increase in smaller forces in Parliament, who in the case of working effectively will have a great opportunity to advance their priorities of their own political agenda. In addition, the Liberals influence can be very important on decision-making in Parliament, and the most influential among national deputies are certainly the German deputies.
  • European Commission president’s election showed that the mechanism of a leading candidate placed within the Commission’s president election failed, which was reasoned with the principle disagreement of some of the EU countries leaders and with promoting the most beneficial options for them.
  • The nomination of the German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as a European Commission President by the French President Emmanuel Macron contributed to the strengthening of Franco-German relationship. This can contribute to the increase in European policy and to promoting priority issues of their own political agenda. It can be presumed that their cooperation will mainly be focused on environmental, social and migration issues. In this regard, their further cooperation in defense is also noteworthy, if taking into account the active support to the European Army concept by Ursula von der Leyen and Emmanuel Macron’s aspirations of creating pan-European defense system ((Համաեվրոպական+պաշտպանական+համակարգ).
  • The appointments of new figures to the EU top posts, as well as the election of Great Britain’s new Prime Minister allows us to presume that some progress will be recorded in the Brexit negotiations and it will be possible to bring it to its logical conclusion.
  • The appointment to the EU top posts as well as the appointment of a new EU Ambassador to Armenia will create a new impetus for Armenia-EU cooperation. The officials having positive attitude towards Armenia have already been appointed to their posts, which can contribute to the strengthening of already positive relations. At this stage, however, we should aim for consistent effort not only preserving cooperation, but also expanding them, especially preventing implementation of CEPA.