Donald Tusk has urged the EU’s new leadership to strike a deal with the Greens and ensure the next commission president has the backing of a stable progressive majority in the European Parliament for the next five years.
The outgoing president of the European Council was speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg three days after EU leaders completed marathon negotiations to fill the bloc’s top jobs. Despite having their best ever EU election results in May, the Greens did not secure any of the senior posts.
Mr Tusk said he has urged the heads of EU governments and the new commission president delegate, Ursula von der Leyen, to reach out to Green MEPs and include them in political negotiations over who will be in the next commission.
“I am fully confident that co-operation with Greens will benefit the governing coalition but also Europe as a whole. I will appeal to all my partners to involve the Greens in the negotiations.”
Ms von der Leyen needs to secure support of a majority of MEPs — at least 375 — to become Brussels next boss when a vote is held in two weeks time. The Greens have 74 MEPs and would help significantly bolster an alliance of pro-EU parties that includes the centre-right, centre-left and liberals for the first time. Without the Greens, Ms von der Leyen could win backing from 444 MEPs from the centre right, socialists, and liberals.
When picking names for the head of the commission, European Council, and European Parliament, EU leaders on Monday ditched lead candidates who had campaigned in the elections. MEPs have been in uproar over the abandoning of the so-called Spitzenkandidat system — which five years ago allowed the parliament to influence who becomes Brussels new chief.
On Thursday, Mr Tusk was the subjected to a barrage of criticism for how the process was handled. Esteban Gonzales Pons, MEP from the European People’s Party, accused the council of disregarding the parliament and taking the side of Eurosceptics who also oppose the lead candidate process.
But Mr Gonzales Pons said the EPP — the largest group in the parliament — would still back Ms von de Leyen, who is a member of Angela Merkel’s conservative ruling party.
“The EPP is going to support the candidate proposed by the council because we accept our responsibility. We are proud Ursula von der Leyen will be the first woman to lead the EU and we are proud it is a centre right woman”
MEPs from the four main groups want Ms von der Leyen to commit to a “coalition programme” in return for their support.
Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, said the Greens would use their numbers “as leverage to get a fairer, more sustainable, democratic Europe”.
Strasbourg’s session was also the first time that new UK Brexit MEPs were present in the assembly after May’s elections. The Brexit Party is the second largest group in the chamber after Germany’s CDU.
Ann Widdecombe, a former Tory MP and now Brexit party MEP, was jeered by MEPs as she compared the UK’s vote to leave as part of a “history of oppressed people turning on their oppressors”.