Posts tagged "Alexis Tsipras"

No news is good news for Tsipras: ten reflections on the Greek elections

1. No news is good news for Tsipras

The election result is a major political and personal triumph for Alexis Tsipras (pictured). His SYRIZA party, divided over the third bailout package agreed in July, lost only one seat compared to its result in January. It also scored a seven percentage point lead over the centre-right New Democracy party.

Tsipras’ clear victory was a surprise for many, as pre-election polls had shown SYRIZA neck-and-neck with New Democracy. Tsipras also managed to secure clear leadership of the left in Greece, with People’s Unity (the party established by far-left SYRIZA MPs who left the party) gaining no representation in Parliament, and the centre-left (PASOK-DIMAR) securing only modest gains. Potential dissent SYRIZA MPs may think twice, having seen the fate of their erstwhile colleagues.

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Europe under attack

David Harley gives his view on the existential threats facing Europe in 2015, and the role that business can play in overcoming them:

We are only six weeks into the new year, and the European Union and everything it stands for is already under threat on multiple fronts. Even the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), has said that the Commission is in the last-chance saloon.

The threats and attacks on the EU are both internal and external.

Internally, the EU has numerous problems. There is sluggish economic growth across Europe, resulting in a loss of competitiveness in global markets. There is a deepening policy rift between northern and southern member states.

Political extremism is increasing on both left and right, with growing antisemitism and the emergence in several countries of ISIS-inspired (but essentially home-grown) Islamist radicalism and terrorism.

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The first head-to-head: much ado about very little

EP President meets Jean-Claude Juncker

A little bit of European political history was made yesterday, with the first televised head-to-head debate between candidates for the European Commission presidency.

The first debate between Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz – the lead candidates for the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists – took place in Brussels and was broadcast live on France 24, with a replay later that evening on Radio France International.

It is the first in a series of debates between the lead candidates (see panel) – and there is definitely scope for improvement if the candidates – and broadcasters – truly want to engage people in the discussion on Europe’s future leadership.
[infopane color=”6″ icon=”0869.png”]Next live TV debates

Juncker v Schulz
8 May at 20:15 CET – broadcast on ÖRF (Austria) and ZDF (Germany), in German
20 May at 21:00 CET – broadcast on ARD (Germany), in German

Open to all candidates (note: Alexis Tsipras not confirmed for 28 April and 9 May)
28 April at 19:00 CET – broadcast on Euronews
9 May at 18:30 CET – broadcast on Rai (Italy)
15 May at 21:00 CET – organised by the EBU – national coverage may vary[/infopane]

My overall view on the France 24 / RFI debate is that it that it was rather dull in format and content – everyone was playing things a bit safe. It’s natural for a first debate, but if the candidates and broadcasters want to engage voters, there needs to be more dynamism.

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50 days to go, 50 things to know about Europe’s year of change

The countdown continues: at 08:00 CET on Wednesday 2 April, there are exactly 50 days to go to the opening of the polls for the European Parliament elections.

Here is our overview of where we stand and what you need to know about Europe’s year of change:

Top jobs | Country-by-country | PollWatch 2014 | The elections and beyond | Reading list

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Italy’s Tsipras List: who are the candidates and what do they want to achieve?

Press Conference : "Is austerity the only way out of the crisis? Alternative options for Europe"The ‘Tsipras List’ – officially ‘The Other Europe with Tsipras‘, which was presented on 5 March in Rome, is part of a growing trend of ‘personality-led’ lists of candidates for the European elections.

The List – which is the first confirmed list of candidates for the European Parliament election in Italy – is somewhat unconventional. Like lists in some other countries – such as Poland’s Europa Plus – Your Movement list (which we will look at in more detail in a future post) and France’s ‘Citizens’ Europe’ (led by Corinne Lepage MEP) – the Tsipras List brings together prominent members of civil society, professionals, intellectuals and others, in addition to politicians.

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Weekend round-up: PES Congress confirms Schulz as common candidate


Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, was officially confirmed as the ‘common candidate’ of the Party of European Socialists during an election congress in Rome.

Schulz – the only candidate – was backed by 368 delegates in the Italian capital. Two delegates opposed Schulz and 34 abstained.

In his acceptance speech, Schulz set out his priorities should he become President of the European Commission. He highlighted that his first priority would be employment, a theme that is also prominent in the Socialist manifesto, also adopted in Rome.

The Congress welcomed the Italian Democratic Party (PD) as its newest member, with the moniker ‘Socialists and Democrats’ now added to the Party’s logo – possibly hinting that the parliamentary Socialists and Democrats Group, whose name was changed to reflect the inclusion of the PD, will revert to the ‘PES’ name after the elections.

Read our Storify of the PES Congress ( See our photos from the Congress (
PES manifesto ( Martin Schulz’ speech ( Martin Schulz campaign website

The election of Schulz as the Socialists’ common candidate means that the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is the only main party yet to officially name its candidate.

On Friday, Michel Barnier – the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services – joined the race, nominated by his own party (France’s Union for a Popular Movement) and backed by EPP member parties in Hungary and Slovenia.

Barnier will face the former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker (also backed by parties in Germany and Greece), who is favourite to win the nomination, and former Latvian PM Valdis Dombrovskis, who is supported by parties in Estonia and Lithuania, as well as his own party.

EPP delegates will pick the party’s lead candidate in Dublin on Friday.

EPP Dublin Elections Congress website

The European Democratic Party, whose members include the Democratic Movement (MoDem) in France, adopted its manifesto and will chose its common candidate on 12 March.

EDP manifesto (
A number of national parties also selected candidates for the European Parliament elections this weekend (click the country name to go to the candidates list for that country):
[bullets icon=”0130.png”]

Read our lists of European Parliament candidates


400 is the magic number: scenarios for electing the next Commission president

Christian Feustel, Senior Policy Analyst at BusinessEurope, gives his personal reflection on how the next President of the European Commission may be chosen:

Let’s be honest: no one really knows what’s going to happen between May and July this year.

The whole procedure of choosing a Commission president – as set out in the Lisbon Treaty – is a novelty for all of us. Talk to three people in Brussels and you will probably get five different opinions on how things will pan out.

So here’s my take: it’s about the number 400. All that matters is getting the support of four hundred Members of the European Parliament. But the route to this seemingly simple objective is far from easy.

Barroso election

The process

On paper it is clear: European political parties are nominating lead candidates; their proposed nominees to take the role of Commission president. After the election – and taking into account its results – the European Council will nominate a candidate by qualified majority voting. Realpolitik means big countries will still have a veto, but smaller countries will lose this right – something that should make the process easier.

Then, the Parliament has to hold an election to approve the nominee. Legally, the nominee needs an absolute majority – the support of 376 MEPs. But to be truly safely elected and credible, he or she needs at least 400 votes. This means that the next Commission president will also be tied politically to this majority: he or she will need to deliver on (at least some) of his or her promises.

There are some predictions of a game of institutional ping-pong between the European Council and the European Parliament, with candidates nominates and then voted down. But I doubt this: Herman Van Rompuy (below), the President of the European Council, is unlikely to go to the heads of state and government and propose a candidate to them – and they will not back that candidate – unless the 400 votes are locked up. The deal needs to be watertight.

Herman Van Rompuy

The scenarios

For the sake of argument – and in the absence of a clear indication of a decisive win for any party in May – let’s assume the centre-right European People’s Party will win the elections and continue to be the biggest single group in the Parliament. Following good democratic tradition in our old European nation states, the candidate of the party gaining the most seats in a parliament has the first stab at forming the ‘government’ (in this case, the Commission).

But only in mid-June, when the political groups have coalesced, chosen group leaders and discussed the various scenarios, will Van Rompuy take the EPP candidate – which seems likely to be the former Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker – by the hand and seek the support of the Parliament.

What happens next?

Scenario 1: The grand coalition

The EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals make a deal on the top posts.

They all get their fair share (Martin Schulz, the Socialist candidate, perhaps becomes High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; the Liberal candidate, Guy Verhofstadt, heads a constitutional convention, or his running-mate, Olli Rehn, heads the Eurogroup).

The three mainstream groups agree to support the EPP candidate and all is settled: the centre-right nominee gets his or her 400+ votes.

Scenario 2: Second chance Schulz

Van Rompuy and the EPP candidate go to see the leaders of the political groups. The EPP has 220 MEPs, and will need at least another 180 votes to see its candidate approved.

Parties to the right refuse support – the EPP candidate is far too ‘pro-European’ for them to back. The Liberals, with 60-80 MEPs, are inclined to back the EPP candidate, but are far from united: only 60% of them can be sure to support the centre-right nominee, leaving him or her well short of the magic number.

So to the Socialists. They still back Schulz. The other groups refuse to back the EPP candidate, too.

With the ‘winning’ candidate unlikely to get a majority, Van Rompuy turns to the runner-up. Schulz is the new proposed candidate, the Socialists having gained seats in the elections while the EPP saw its representation reduced, and the European Council President having recognised that the voters did want change.

This is the scenario that Schulz and Verhofstadt, and the Greens too, have played through again and again. 210 Socialists, plus 40 Liberals, plus 40 Greens, plus 40 far-left MEPs. That brings Schulz to around 330 votes. But where are the remaining 70?

Schulz – already far closer to the goal than the EPP candidate – picks up the German Christian Democrat delegation and perhaps wins over a few other EPP MEPs with policy pledges on the economy or institutional reform. He reaches 400.

This means that Van Rompuy can go to the European Council at the end of June and propose Schulz as the only candidate able to muster 400 votes. Despite the European Council having 20 or so governments with EPP participation, it can do nothing else but back Schulz.

The comments by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, about the winning party not necessarily providing the next Commission president come true – although perhaps not in the way she initially imagined.

Scenario 3: Delay and horse-trading

Both the EPP and Schulz have failed to gather enough support in the political groups. Both are far away from 400. Van Rompuy turns to his compatriot, but Guy Verhofstadt, seen as too avant-garde and too federalist, is a no-go. Back to the drawing board.

In this scenario, the timeline would inevitably be delayed. Both the EPP candidate and Schulz would be ‘in play’, but would have to begin a more lengthy process of lobbying the various different political groups to gather support – and making many promises, not only on policy, but on positions. The victor in these negotiations takes the presidency.

Scenario 4: The European Council refuses to nominate

This last scenario is the most detrimental to the process: based on scenario 1 or 2, one of the leading candidates gathers together a parliamentary majority – but the European Council refuses to nominate him or her for the position.

I believe that this is an unlikely scenario – after all, most of the heads of state and governments are members of the European political parties, and have been involved in the nomination of their top candidates. The EPP, if it accepts Schulz, could conceivably keep its hands on the post of President of the European Council as part of the deal.

However, David Cameron, the British PM, is known to oppose the idea of Martin Schulz becoming Commission president. Positioned outside the main European parties, he has not been involved in the process of selecting a candidate. He represents a big country. And others, mindful of Cameron’s renegotiation plans and anxious not to upset the UK unduly, give in – they are not prepared to defend Schulz at all costs.

Rejecting a candidate that has the support of the absolute majority of a freshly-elected European Parliament would, in my view, be a huge disappointment, and would effectively kill this experiment in European democracy. It would also lead to a stalemate of several months between the European Council and the Parliament, with many unforeseeable consequences.

‘Fringe’ benefits for the Socialists?

One of the big topics of discussion around the European elections is the potential for a large increase in the number of MEPs from ‘fringe’ groups.

In the context of the choice of a Commission president, this is disadvantageous to the pro-European EPP: on institutional issues, it does not have many options to its right, with conservatives and other right-wing groups opposed to deeper integration.

Both sides would struggle to come together to back a Commission president and see their political destinies tied together for the next five years. An EPP Commission president may also struggle to pay back the support of Eurosceptics in his or her new role. Ad hoc alliances to pass business-friendly legislation will happen – but cooperation on institutional issues is highly unlikely.

The centre-left, meanwhile, has greater opportunities to form alliances with the far-left, Greens and some Liberals. Alexis Tsipras, the candidate for the Party of the European Left, has not ruled out backing Schulz – something that makes scenario 2 the most likely outcome in my view. Perhaps this is one reason why many high-profile potential EPP candidates are reluctant about throwing their hat into the ring.

Still room for old-style horse-trading

While the Commission presidency has this new democratic dynamic, the selections of candidates for the other top posts will be ‘behind-closed-doors’ affairs. If Schulz takes the Commission presidency, we could see an EPP candidate getting the post of President of the European Council (where the centre-right is still the biggest grouping), a Liberal foreign minister, and maybe a move for José Manuel Barroso, the current Commission President, a few kilometres down the road to become Secretary-General of Nato.

The ‘horse-trading’ will begin already the day after the elections, if not before, as the profiles of the potential candidates will have to match the unofficial conditions of a balance of nationality, party colour, East-West, North-South, and gender.

Van Rompuy will surely consult privately before anybody even shows up at a polling station. And a special summit has now been convened for the evening of 27 May – the first night of the long knives? And now, the Parliament plans to hold a ‘counter-meeting’ on the morning of 27 May – European power games at their best…

Speculation will continue, deals will be made – but come May and June, 400 will be the magic number.


Party games: the Parliament and its post-election musical chairs

Six months away from the European Parliament elections, the first serious set of predictions are being made.

Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute, a Paris-based think-tank, has recently published a must-read policy paper in which it predicts that the centre-left Socialists & Democrats Group (S&D) will oust the centre-right European People’s Party Group (EPP) as the largest group in the new Parliament.

And in February, Burson-Marsteller Brussels will support the launch – as part of Europe Decides – of PollWatch, a VoteWatch Europe project that will take an in-depth and regular look at opinion polls and the likely composition of the new assembly.

However, the election results are only part of the story. Post-election horse-trading and haggling plays a key role in determining the final composition of the groups and – significantly this time – the creation of a majority to back the appointment of a new President of the European Commission.

Political positioning and the distribution of key roles (such as committee chairs or group spokespeople) may help sway the decisions of national party delegations on where to sit.

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PES fires starting pistol on candidates race

The Party of European Socialists (PES) announced today the opening of a process of nominations to be the ‘common candidate’ of the Party for the European Parliament elections. This candidate would then be put forward as the PES candidate for the European Commission President.

In a statement, the PES said that the nominations process – which will last until the end of October – “is designed to meet the many demands for a more democratic and transparent way to designate key European Union posts. It is also hoped that it will increase interest in the election”.

According to the Party, each nominee needs to be supported by 15% of PES full member parties or organisations (at least one nominating the candidate, plus five other supporters). The PES Presidency will hold a meeting on 6 November to verify the process and announce the nominee(s), with the candidate being selected at the PES Election Congress in February 2014. The PES manifesto will be adopted at the same meeting.

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