Macron and Salvini Agree: EU Spitzenkandidats Stink
Guest post by Ted Malloch and Felipe Cuello
Over the past few months of rising tensions in Europe, a strange thing has happened.
Macron, the scion of liberal global internationalists pining for the federalist European paradise, has found himself on the same side of one major political issue as his supposed arch-rival – Matteo Salvini, the Italian Eurosceptic currently leading in all the EU polls.
They disagree on most things — from immigration to economics, so this is something to note.
Despite Salvini’s charge against Paris – from the Louvre to his overt support for Gilet Jaune protesters calling for Macron’s resignation – he delivered the most meaningful political victory Macron could have hoped for.
The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF – or as we mortals refer to it, the EU Budget) has successfully been filibustered.
Salvini’s tactical slow rolling of Italy’s budget had a cascading effect: without solid numbers on what Italy was spending, the EU couldn’t put together their own program.
Weeks before this turn of events, it was Macron and his surrogates pushing for this outcome – which monies will be spent by whom, and on what, is an integral part of the democratic political process.
The Brussels machine was attempting to push through a 7-year budget right before the start of a 5-year term – potentially somersaulting over what is set to be the most Eurosceptic parliament of all time after the upcoming May elections.
A similar confluence of interests seems to be coming together on the issue of the European Presidencies (there are five).
The European Commission, currently headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, will be getting a new President after the elections in May.
The European Parliament must vote by majority on a single individual to lead the European civil service.
Current polling suggests the centrist mainstream parties will have a tough time putting together the numbers to do that.
The European Council (EC), which has a separate President, is also part of the selection process – European heads of state nominate a candidate (usually just one) to be voted on by the Parliament.
Parliamentarians have been trying to wrest away this power for themselves by nominating their candidates in advance of the elections.
Spitzenkandidaten, German for “lead candidate” are supposed to be the “presidential contender” in every country during the European elections.
One problem: Not all parties are on board with this, least of all Macron’s REM Party, who doesn’t even have a European Union party in the first place.
One can easily see a coalition of the unwilling vetoing any erstwhile suggestion by the EC to nominate the milquetoast Spitzenkandidats currently on offer – a Bavarian acolyte of Merkel’s, an old Dutch socialist, a two-headed (gender neutral) Green ticket, or the weak Czech conservative alternative.
Another problem: The candidates add nothing to the campaigns of their parties.
There is no hint that Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is making any effort to convince Italians that the EPP’s boring Manfred Weber is the best hope for Europe.
There’s an even chance that Spain’s embattled Socialists haven’t heard of Frans Timmermans , a bureaucratic Eurocratat after all.
In other words, even the centrist mainstream parties aren’t really bothering to play along with the present Spitzenkandidat system.
Racking up a second major win for this unlikely Franco-Italian alliance, only one thing is clear: Variable geometry will remain the order of the day in Europe.
Macron and Salvini agree on at least one thing: end this system.
It seems the shape of things is increasingly aligning against Berlin.
But it all depends on seats.
Winning is everything!