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European Council President: What do the MEPs want?

Friday, 13 November 2009
Remember, remember the 19th of November...

In the same week the fall of the Berlin Wall was commemorated, came the announcement of another important event in the history of Europe - the unveiling of the identities of those to fill the roles created by the Lisbon Treaty.

MEPs at Strasbourg (Photo: BBC/AFP)

Making the announcement, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently occupies the rotating presidency, said the exceptional summit in Brussels will be in the format of an EU leaders' dinner in Brussels and will come after two weeks of consultations between Stockholm and the other EU capitals.

To be decided are the positions of the new president of the European Council and EU foreign relations chief, as well as the appointment of a new secretary general of the Council, the Brussels-based institution which prepares member states' day-to-day meetings.

In plenary in Brussels on Wednesday (11th), MEPs and group leaders had their change to say what they wanted from these appointments. In the debate, concerns were voiced about the timetable for appointing candidates, their qualifications, and issues gender equality. Here are some of the highlights:

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) spoke most openly about the appointments stating his belief that the position of the President of Council should be filled by "somebody who believes in EU integration, is not a eurosceptic, and believes in the community method which takes Europe forward."

"If you want to appoint a Pope, you choose a Catholic", he jovially remarked.

Hannes Swoboda (AT), on behalf of the S&D group, was concerned with the gender question and asked "are you ready to talk to the Heads of State to ensure that we have a gender and a geographical balance [in the Commission] and are you prepared to ensure that there are powerful ladies involved?"

Joseph Daul (EPP, FR) also spoke on this issue, strongly advising Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that "once the Member States have designated their candidates [for Commissioners posts] you should move as quickly as possible to establish their portfolios, so that they can be heard by the EP in hearings which we want to be as in-depth as possible."

Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE) lamented the fact there "is as yet no sign of any strong men or women coming forward", while Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) used his allotted time to suggest that "some [government leaders] are even trying to divide the European Union into two classes of citizens, by saying that only individuals coming from Member States in the Schengen area and the Eurozone should be eligible."

Dismissing the summit's objectives all-together, Lothar Bisky (GUE/NGL, DE) argued "it would be a good idea if the Heads of State and Governments were to use the summit for [rather] more practical and concrete politics."

With so much for the heads of State and Government leaders to discuss and decide, one wonders whether they will have time to eat. But regardless of the names that emerge from the meeting, it will be another significant day in the history of the European Union.

Remember, remember the 19th of November...

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