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LAST UPDATED:July 17, 2013

DURATION:
58 Minutes

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EU Public Affairs Forecast until June 2014: What to expect until the end of Barroso II and beyond?

Download the PPT here.

Table of Contents:

Timeline
The positions to fill in 2014
The process
The people: Commission President (with current positions)
The incoming Commission President
Other people, other positions?
Already intense campaigning – even for positions on lists
Some other issues

EU Public Affairs Forecast until June 2014: What to expect until the end of Barroso II and beyond? 

Please note that the following transcript has been edited to make reading easier and may slightly differ from what was said in the webinar recording. Disclaimer: We aim to ensure a high level of accuracy, but the webinar and the transcript are for information purposes only and they cannot be considered as legally binding.

Speaker: David Earnshaw (moderator: András Baneth)

This is András Baneth speaking live from Brussels. The speaker is Mr. David Earnshaw, CEO of Burston Marsteller, who has a big expertise on budget and EU institutions but also on energy, environment and a wide range of other issues. He will be using and levering his great experience in his presentation of covering what is to be expected in EU affairs in the coming one year until the end of Barroso II Commission.

Regarding Burston Marsteller, it is the number one – if I may say so –public affairs and public relations consultancy in Brussels dealing with EU lobbying with a huge global network of offices all over including Washington DC and many other venues.

Regarding our organisation, my name is András Baneth and I am the Director of the European Training Academy, which is a company that deals with EU affairs, training about how EU institutions work and decision-making on how to engage with policy makers and how to communicate well with the public affairs subject.

Our webinar today deals with a bit of prediction and a bit of forecast about what to expect until June 2014 and the end of the Barroso II Commission. I will be passing now the floor to David.

Hello and good afternoon everybody. Thank you very much for joining us today. As András said, I am going to predict and forecast a look forward to 2014. In fact, I am going to look beyond 2014 and talk about events until December 2014 on what to expect between now and then.

First of all, I will go over the content of today’s presentation. I am going look at the timeline for the next 12 months until the end of next year. I am going to look at positions which are needed to be filled, the new posts, the new positions, which will be somehow filled in the coming 12 months, the process for doing s and some of the people, the personalities who are being discussed. This is one big jigsaw puzzle and as you will see by the end of this webinar, the more we talk about this jigsaw, the bigger the jigsaw gets. This is what makes this subject so fascinating so it is worth looking in advance at the developments of next year. Then, I will look at some other issues which are becoming increasingly important.

What I will show as a first slide is not a crystal ball because. These are only my predictions and my assessment of how thing could change during the coming 12-month period.

Timeline

First of all, let’s look at the timeline. The prelude to the events of next year is the German elections to be held on the 22nd of September. What happens during these elections is not only a German affair but it is also a European event. It will have profound ramifications across continents.  Therefore, it is important to start with the German elections. In an event of a grand coalition of CDU and SPD that would obviously change the make-up and the personalities involved when looking at German candidates for the European Commission.

However, most specifically, in February 2014, the European political parties will nominate Presidential candidates. The Lisbon Treaty clearly expressed the concept that the President of the European Commission would be elected by the European Council to reflect the outcome of the European elections. So far, the European party candidates, the EPP (Christian Democrats), the PES (Socialists), the ALDE (Liberals) etc, have all announced that they intend to nominate a candidate for President of the European Commission. So we are working on the assumption, which underlies a lot of this presentation today, that the party families will nominate candidates for the Commission President. I am going to look at the personalities for that later. The parties have said that they will do that by February 2014. Of course, if you have a candidate, the next question that comes up is ‘what you stand for’ and it is important that from now on party candidates are in the process of writing a manifesto for various party federations that will participate in the European elections. But the last European Parliament plenary session is in April 2014. From that period on, it will go into an election period. If European elections are on the 22nd or 21st of May 2014, then the UK elections will take place on the 22nd whereas for countries like Belgium, the elections will be held on Sunday the 25th.

Going forward with the timeline, there are couple of holidays that intervene which are less convenient in such a busy year of political decision-making. However, between the 2nd of June and the 26th of June we have a four-week period of meetings of party groups in the European Parliament. These will be the constituent meetings to start up with the reconstitution of those party groups following the European election. Obviously, during that four-week period, a process of negotiation over the positions to fill will take place. At the end of June, the European Council, the 28 Heads of state or government, will nominate the President of the European Commission. When I look at this process and discuss it with people, this is very normal. It is what happens in every Member State (MS) in the EU. That is that the head of state or government identifies the leading party with the most seats in the Parliament and asks that party to form an administration. This is very similar to what we will see during 2014 within the EU institutions.

We then see at the beginning of July there will be the first session of the newly elected European Parliament. People frequently confuse the date when the new Parliamentarians become members. It is at this session, 1st of July 2014, in fact on the Tuesday of the 2nd of July 2014, that the newly elected MEPs actually become MEPs. The old members of the European Parliament, thus the members of the European Parliament today, remain members until the 1st of July. The new membership takes over from the 2nd of July over the constituent session. So although the elections are in May, the current MEPs remain members until July.

In 2014, there is a second session of the European Parliament on the 14th to the 17th of July. At this session, there will be the elections of the President of the European Commission. This is exceptional and unusual because it is the first time that this is being done, to have two July plenary sessions in an election year. In the first July plenary session, the Parliamentary President, the Vice-President, the Quaestors, the Committee Chairs etc. will all be elected whereas the second July plenary session, which is in Brussels (not confirmed yet but the intention is to take place in Brussels), will see the election of the Commission President.

Then it is the August holiday period. 27 individuals will have an important job to do during that period. They will be the Commissioners who will be chosen by the incoming President and the 28 other prime ministers to be the members of the new College of Commissioners. Then, confidential hearings will take place in the European Parliament in the first two weeks of September as currently scheduled with formal investiture during the October session of the European Parliament. The new European Commission once voted by the Parliament in October enters into office in the 1st of November 2014.

The election of the President of the European Council and thus the replacement of Herman Von Rompuy, will happen at the end of this year. In fact, the personalities of each of these positions all interconnect. But to some extent this is about the creation of a coalition. The President of the European Council is part of that coalition as are the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament. Therefore it is a multi inter-institutional coalition administration which is about to be created during 2014.

Another important point on the timeline is what happens on the 26th of May -perhaps on the 27th of May- 2014. European elections would just have taken place. On Monday or Tuesday we will have the election results and we will know who the MEPs are and how many Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals etc. there are.  The next step on the 26th or the 27th of May is that Herman Von Rompuy, the President of the European Council makes a call to the nominee of Commission President of the largest party in the European Parliament.

Let’s assume that Viviane Reding is the Christian Democrat EPP candidate and that the EPP gets 225 seats whereas the Socialists 210. On the 26th or the 27th of May, Herman Von Rompuy calls Viviane Reding and asks her if she can build a majority. Obviously, no individual single party will have a majority to dissolve the European Parliament so the nominee for Commission President will be dependent on building a coalition of the centre-left or the centre-right or even a broader coalition. According to the wide assumption, a call will be made by Herman Von Rompuy shortly after the European election to the nominee of the largest party in the European Parliament for Commission President. He or she will be asked if he or she could get the required number of votes in absolute majority in the European Parliament. You have to think of national politics because this happens after every national election in most countries in Europe. What then happens is that the other parties who are smaller also talk among themselves. Should Viviane Reding be the leader of the EPP or nominated for President of the EPP, then the Socialists and Liberals will talk among themselves about whether an alternative coalition of the centre-left could be created. So I hypothesise that between the European election at the end of May and in and throughout June, hence the meetings of the parliamentary party groups, we will see a process of intensive coalition formation which is not only about the position of the Commission President but also about 27 other Commissioners, the Presidency of the European Parliament for the first two and a half years and in the second two and a half years, plus the Vice-Presidency of the European Parliament, the Committee Chairs and also the President of the European Council.

The positions to fill in 2014

  • 751 members of the European Parliament;
  • The President of the European Commission;
  • 27 Commissioners for the member states;
  • The President of the European Council, Herman Von Rompuy’s replacement whose mandate comes to an end on 1 December 2014;
  • 2 Presidents of the EP for the first and second two and  a half years;
  • A permanent President of the Eurozone, which was interestingly decided only a month ago by the Franco-German paper on the Economic and Monetary Union, which Merkel and Hollande adopted;
  • 20 European Parliament Committee Chairs or 22 if you include the two sub-committees in the European Parliament as well;
  • 14 European Parliament Vice-Presidents out of the 751 newly elected members;
  • The Political Group Leaders. For example, Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the Socialists has announced that he is not returning to Parliament so a new leader of the S+D group will be needed. Joseph Daul, the leader of the EPP has announced his candidature to be the President of the European Parliament so should he be successful in that then a new leader of the EPP will be needed. Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE group in the Parliament will presumably be a candidate for President of the European Commission and while he may not be successful in that but maybe in getting a different position, a new leader of ALDE will be necessary. Therefore, a significant number of group leaders are changing. Also Daniel Cohn-Bendit is not returning to the Parliament;
  • The Secretary General of the Commission, Catherine Day, might be another departure. It is assumed that she will take the opportunity at the end of the Barroso II regime to take her retirement from the Commission;
  • Another departure eventually I would predict, probably in the next five years, will be the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle, who is very young in his 40’s and would then start to consider what job to do next. According to the Brussels rumour mill, he would seek the leadership of the EU delegation in Washington DC;
  • Should there be a Constitutional Convention in 2015, which is widely important and there will probably be one, a President of the 2015 Constitutional Convention will be needed. The new Giscard d’Estaing, if you like that characterisation;
  • This is not only a European jigsaw puzzle but it stretches beyond the EU. The NATO Secretary General and the UN Secretary General are also up for grabs in the next 12 to 18 month period. The NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, may well be the replacement for Herman Van Rompy and one of the candidates to become the Polish Commissioner, Radek Sikorski, may also be a candidate for the UN Secretary General.

Thus, a phenomenal number of positions to fill during 2014, which for the public sector means who is going to be influential in the new Europe. This as an evolution rather than a revolution that will happen in 2014 that it is going to be important for all of us to be familiar with all these new personalities.

The process

The process derives from Article 17, paragraph7, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which says:

“Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.”

The process is set out in the Treaty, it cannot be altered and it is assumed that because of that party federations will nominate these candidates in advance.

It is also important to bear in mind the Declaration annexed to the TFEU, which gives more details about the process for this and requires the European Council and the Parliament to be jointly responsible for the smooth running of the process leading to the election of the President of the European Commission. In other words, Herman Van Rompuy is given a role by the Treaty to make sure that this works together with the European Parliament.

The people: Commission President (with current positions)

EPP

  • Enda Kenny, Taoiseach, Ireland: he gave a remarkable speech at the European Parliament at the end of the Irish Presidency in what was described afterwards as a very good, clear and ambitious speech, articulated in the terms of a future President;
  • Viviane Reding, Vice President European Commission: she has already announced that she would like to seek being a candidate for the EPP group as Commission President;
  • Donald Tusk, PM Poland: interestingly, a month ago he explicitly ruled himself out as a candidate for being President of the European Commission. The question is still asked however; whether if asked to be the President of the European Council, he would take on that role;
  • Jurki Katainen, PM Finland: like Enda Kenny, he gave a powerful speech in the European Parliament in three languages and it was widely regarded as a possible presidential speech;
  • Fredrik Reinfldt, PM Sweden;
  • Dalia Grybauskaite, President Lithuania and at the Head of the current rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU: both Reinfldt and Grybauskaite are sometimes mentioned as possible candidates for Commission President;
  • President Barroso: he has not explicitly said that he will be a President for a third term though it is widely assumed that he would be.

PES

  • Martin Schultz, President European Parliament: frontrunner and way ahead as candidate for the party group of the Socialists;

Other Socialists’ names are mentioned as well without having explicitly put themselves forward:

  • Helle Thorning-Schmitt, PM Denmark;
  • Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero – currently no major position;
  • Pascal Lamy, ex DG WTO: if Martin Schultz is unacceptable to Socialist party leaders following the European elections then it is thought that perhaps Pascal Lamy could be an alternative more acceptable candidate.

ALDE

  • Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, Leader ALDE, EP: seven year experience as Belgian PM;
  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General: former Danish PM.

A question we received is why Commissioner Barnier is not enlisted. It is widely expected that Barnier will take leave of absence from the European Commission in 2014 to fight European election. Obviously, he is unlikely to be re-nominated by President Hollande so it is thought that he will join the European Parliament and within it, I would gamble that he will become leader of the EPP, if Joseph Daul becomes President of the European Parliament. As I said at the beginning, this is a very large jigsaw or even a pack of cards. As one card moves and as one piece of the jigsaw moves, the entire picture changes its shape. Therefore, Barnier is indeed part of this jigsaw puzzle.

The incoming Commission President

The incoming President for me is likely to be selected through the most party-based process that it has ever been. Of course, it is not going to be an entire, 100% party-based process as the EU is too complicated for that. But it is going to be less of a state process than it was in the past. I would hypothesise that it is going to be a case of parties choosing a leader than of member states representatives. Given that every member of the European Council is actually a party leader, I thus hypothesise that it is going to be a party-based system and not a member states process negotiation.

Catherine Ashton, five years ago, was already the precedent for this. She was chosen as High Representative by socialist party leaders because she was a socialist woman not because she was British. It may not be true but Gordon Brown did not recognise what he was doing as being the British socialist PM at the time but the other socialist leaders knew that they were choosing a socialist candidate.

Question from András: Thank you very much. This raises an interesting point. I am sure that the member state angle to party politics has big repercussions on the policy-making. So I would be curious to hear how in your view that translates into the policy-making of the EU, a king of shared, value-based party politics instead of the member state angle.

Thank you very much András. You just made my crystal ball even more important because if the picture I am painting is indeed correct, it will lead to profound change in the way the EU currently works. Not least, presumably, there will be a permanent majority to support the European Commission in the European Parliament and it will be the same majority on every issue. For example, at the moment, in any vote it is never reassured what the majority is e.g. centre-left, centre-right, grand coalition.  Whereas from now on, this kind of picture, this kind of jigsaw puzzle, will lead to a permanent presidential majority in the European Parliament.

The next thing I would like to highlight is that the parliamentary majority would be critical for the incoming President. He or she will be able to rely for the first time in July 2014 on a majority support from the European Parliament and will be able to go to the PMs of the EU and say ‘Hi, I have been elected and I have as much democratic legitimacy as you have. Like you, I am fully elected by my national Parliament’. Never before has the Commission President been in that situation. Will this lead to a more partisan College? I think it is highly likely but should we have an ambitious President, let’s say Martin Schultz as President of the European Commission, surely he will insist on gender balance as well as on more left-wing Commissioners than right-wing Commissioners. Surely, an ambitious President having the majority in the European Parliament will not just rubberstamp  suggestions by other ministers but he will seek to have an influence on the kind of people which are offered to him by PMs. For example Viviane Reding, would have clearly set expectations should she become President. She has already said that she expects all member of her College, should she be the President of the European Commission, to be or have been MEPs because she was an MEP as well before becoming a Commissioner. She was quoted saying in particular that “all EU Commissioners should be elected to the EP first before being appointed to the Commission.” So she will insist with PMs should she become Commission President that the team that it is assembled around her reflects the new parliamentary nature of the Commission as happens in many countries. Thus, we could have a very different kind of College from now on.

Another question that can be asked: what happens if you do not become Commission President? What happens if you are Guy Verhofstadt and you try to become Commission President already a number of times and you fail as it will happen this time as well since he will never be able to gather the sufficient number of votes needed in the European Parliament. He could probably seek the parliamentary Presidency. So in a way there is a fall-back option for candidates for Commission President to possibly become a parliamentary President.

I will re-mention gender balance because I think that in the forthcoming College it will be a particularly important point. I think that the European Parliament in the hearings will try to insist on gender balance and I think that any of the people named so far as incoming Commission Presidents will seek at least to better gender balance that it has ever been.

Finally, I would like to highlight the portfolios of Commissioners and the reform of Directorates-General, which may not happen immediately in 2014 but gradually.  If you have more parties in the Commission then it follows that the naming and functioning of Directorates-General could well change. So a Directorate-General  for Jobs instead of a Directorate-General  for employment, a Directorate-General  for Digital Economy instead of DG Connect, a Directorate-General  for Migration etc.

Other people, other positions?

  • Radek Sikorski: he is a possibility for the Vice-President of High Representative (VPHR). It is thought though that he would prefer the Ban-Ki Moon job at the UN where he would be preferred as an Eastern European;
  • Carl Bilt, Swedish Foreign Minister: is clearly a man often referred to in the EU jigsaw puzzle potentially as a Commission President or President of the European Council;
  • Kristina Georgiva, Bulgarian Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid: she is seen as having been very able and very good;
  • ALDE, Guy Verhofstadt is the candidate whose name is most often referred to. However, he is not that popular among the leaders of liberal parties. I think they will be for Anders Fogh Rasmussen who will be a different but preferred candidate for the post. On the other hand, the European Council presidency might be preferable for Rasmussen. Thus, a fight is expected within ALDE between Verhofstadt and Rasmussen on who gets which nomination;
  • The Danish government is a problem because it is left leaning. Could it nominate a liberal e.g.  Rasmussen? The European Council does not need a nomination. It could choose itself Rasmussen or alternatively it could ask Tusk to chair it;
  • Dutch Commissioner Kroes:  she is a very capable Commissioner with her only disadvantage being 72 years old in the next couple of weeks. On the other hand, the European population is ageing and given her very good record, she might find herself back for a third term;
  • Pascal Lamy:  a reputation of being brilliant, highly intelligent and with a high integrity. He has already been Trade Commissioner and chaired the WTO negotiations with the US. Given the current privacy issues with the US, he may be a very good choice for the French as an incoming Commission President.
  • Martin Aubry: if she does not become French PM, she could be another French candidate;
  • EPP parliamentary group: Commissioner Barnier is the leading contender for EPP’s presidency. He will take a leave of absence from April 2014 which raises the interesting question, who is the French Commissioner between April and November 2014? I would suggest that there will be no French Commissioner because it will be very hard to appoint a French Commissioner for only three months whereas the there will also be other countries that will not have Commissioners on full service from April 2014. Of course, it could be assumed that if Barnier takes a leave of absence in April and will be elected with the Parliament in May, he will not become an MEP until July so presumably he will go back to be Commissioner between the end of May and the beginning of July and then he will become an MEP. It is not worth for the French to nominate an alternative during that period.
  • De Gucht might be another peronality who seeks election in the European Parliament maybe even Viviane Reding to give her campaign for Commission President some legitimacy. Thus, you might find a rather strange Commission during 2014, which has got a lot of its members on leave of absence.
  • S+D parliamentary group: Swoboda is retiring to national politics. Should Schultz not succeed in becoming Commission President or High Representative or even German Commissioner, the consolation prize for Schultz is to return to the European Parliament and lead again the socialists group.
  • NATO SecGen: Fratini Pieter (Italy), De Crem (Belgium), Abdullah Gul (Turkey)

Already intense campaigning – even for positions on lists

There is already a massively intense campaigning in many parts of Europe even for positions on lists for having a higher position on a list and for internal party selection processes. So already the personalities and the people certainly from a European parliamentary sense are also starting to become apparent.

Some other issues

  • There will not be many primaries this year although the Greens have announced that they will be primaries with the Green party family. In 2019, it is an obvious possibility in advance of the 2019 parliamentary elections. The socialists, the conservatives and the liberals will hold primary elections for the selection of the President of the European Commission.
  • Manifestos are in preparation already. If you have a presidential candidate, it is absolutely critical that there has to be a manifesto because the first question always asked is ‘what you stand for’. So there has to be a manifesto that does not represent just the lowest common denominator. It has to be meaningful. Coming back to András question, this is about the beginning of valued-based politics. This is about when candidates for Commission President start speaking values in an elections campaign, hopefully, possibly.
  • Campaigning: in some parts of Europe this could lead to a bigger, more visible, more compelling campaign than ever before. In other parts of Europe, It could be completely different. For example, if you were in the British Labour Party, would you really want Martin Schultz, German socialist, campaigning in the streets of London? Probably not. Similarly, if you were from Greek socialist PASOK party would you like a German candidate for President of the European Commission campaigning in the streets of Athens? Probably not. Therefore, it raises all kinds of issues about the nature of the European demos and the nature of the future European political system. However, the campaigning will probably be more compelling this time than ever before.
  • What is the process for candidatures? The parties are starting from scratch. There is not really a process. How do you make it known that you want to become the President of the European Commission? As usual, we are seeing a lot of back-room negotiations and back-room deals. However, that is this year. Five years from now, there will be a better process.
  • Hearings of Commissioners will take place in September 2014. These will be more important to them than they have ever been. To note that in the previous years the Commissioners have lost a number of well-known names and I would expect a few losses of nominees in September 2014 as well. Also this strengthens the fact of being an incoming Commission President, who will then say to the PMs ‘you have to give me somebody who has European commitment, who is a woman, someone of a certain party and valued, in order to get them through the hearings’. For example, if you are an incoming President of the European Commission what better thing to do than to insist that David Cameron gives you -say- Malcolm Harbour as European Commissioner, a British conservative with a long-standing European record. It will kill the Tories party. But it will be the superb political move by an incoming socialist Commission President.
  • Ballot papers: they declare the party family of the national parties. For example, if you are voting in Britain for the Labour party, you vote first for a Labour party candidate and then for the party of the European socialists on the ballot paper. In some countries, it might be that the European Commission and the European Parliament have recommended that it does precisely that on ballot papers. All of these of course raise the question; I hypothesise maybe not in 2019 but in 2024, that sooner or later we will need a single electoral register. This is a single election. It will start to be campaigned as a single election where you will vote for a single chief executive, the President of the European Commission. Sooner or later you will need to know who your electorate is on a single list and not on 27, 28 or even more different lists.
  • Will it all be a flop? I am very conscious that things may not end up like how I described so far. What happens if the European party families do not nominate a candidate? Even now it is rumoured that the big party families are having second thoughts. I do not think this will happen because it only takes one to nominate a candidate and the rest would have to follow. The liberals would definitely nominate a candidate as well as the greens. Once this happens, then the EPP, the socialists and the liberals have to make their nominations too. So they will actually nominate a candidate. A bigger question is what happens if the European Council reaches the end of 2014 and decides that it does not like the candidate nominated by the EPP or by the socialists and chooses somebody else? I think that this would be an extremely dangerous thing for the EU to do because that would mean having lied to the electorate. Because once nominated to be President of the European Commission from any party family, those candidates would presumably have greater visibility. It would be unacceptable for the European Council to make a nomination to the European Parliament of somebody outside this process.
  • If none of these happens and there is a conflict flop, I think we would have probably created more problems to the EU than we have today. The EU suffers from a crisis of legitimacy. This may not be the kind of Europe we want, people want, MS and governments want. However, this is the way in which you make it legitimate. You get below technocratic and bureaucratic decision-making by politising the process. If it does not happen like this, then we will continue to have a Europe which is not legitimate, a Europe which lacks democracy.

Question from András: I think one important point worth asking is what to be expected in practical/technical terms until the end of the existing Commission because with all this positioning and politising taking place, how will the system continue functioning if the leadership is busy with their re-election and positioning? So would it be more of a ‘business as usual’ mode and how would that impact the works of this Commission?

The second question is if you could give an example of what this politising really means in practical terms. Would it be –say- more environmental countries policies or would it be different rules towards the financial sector? How does it look in your view?

In a way, what is going to happen between now and the middle of next year is what happens every five years. There will be a slowing down of legislative proposals and there will be an absolute cut-off for the transmission of new legislative proposals to the European Parliament, which I think is planned to be the end of October 2013. Obviously, the nearer you get to the election, the more difficult is the process of legislative proposals. There are a number of big legislative dossiers, which are before the European Parliament, and a number which has just been proposed and sme which are coming. Once the summer 2013 is out of the way, I expect very little in the way of new proposals or new major proposals to be made. The big telecoms package will be proposed just after the summer as well as one or two important dossiers. That will be it by October; then we will see a clearing of the decks. You are also going to see more of what is already visible; the focus of attention in the European Parliament is on the election. Increasingly this is the case at senior levels within the European Commission as well. We are starting to see again what is normal in any national government that the closer you get to the election the more the focus is on that election as it should be in a democratic political system. There will be pressure and lots of discussions held about the need to get first readings done so that legislation does not die because of course EU legislation does not die with the elections as it does in Germany. It continues to exist so long as there has been a first reading in the Parliament. So there will be numerous dossiers I think, which will be rushed through to be voted in the plenary by April 2014 so that they do not have to start all over again with those same proposals towards the end of the year. Thus, there will be a slowdown between now and the election, certainly from now to the summer and the election. We are focused on what is already on the list rather than on anything new.

Where does this lead in terms of values and politics? A lot depends on whether we have a centre-left, a centre-right or a grand coalition in the Commission. There is a concern that within the new European Parliament there could be a 30% of the membership of the Parliament comprising of empty system parties like De Wever, Grillo, Farage, etc. It is thought that it could be up to 30% of members. Although once you get passed for example 25% with UKIP in Britain or Grillo in Italy, it is actually quite difficult to find 30% of the Parliament. In realistic terms this empty system might be 20% of the Parliament. That is the reason why there is a bit of a journalistic hype at the moment about the Parliament being likely to have very much more empty system far right/far left members. It is a bit difficult to know where all that will come from. A 30% is probably the maximum and 20% is probably a more realistic estimate. Nonetheless, there will be a significant European empty system opposition.

One of the very great dangers is if the traditional big parties, EPP, socialists, ALDE, Greens, cooperate with each other in some kind of grand coalition leading to the only opposition, the empty system opposition. I think that we also need as Europeans a loyal opposition into which dissatisfaction is channeled but which does not go as far as to being opposed fundamentally to the existence and construction of the EU. Thus, it is important to have a proper opposition. What I would like to see is a centre-left government/administration or a centre-right government/administration at the Commission with an opposition of the left or right perspective. For example, I would like to see a Socialist/Liberal administration or a Christian Democrat/Liberal administration allowing opposition to that kind of politics to be channeled by the European political family. That responds directly to András question that if you get a centre-left or a centre-right administration, it sort of follows what kind of policy proposals you are going to get from it. If you get a centre-left administration, you are going to regulate the banks, you are going to work harder on climate change, you will try and make sure we spend more on job creation and employment opportunities, equality, diversity etc. So I do think we may find ourselves having a different kind of politics twelve months from now where you could identify the political orientation of the European Commission. At the moment it is very rare that you even see the party family or even use the party family to identify it. Of course, like PMs or governments, every European Commissioner is where they are because of their record of achievements and party politics. Again, this is not unusual. This will be about bringing party politics potentially into Brussels.

Question from András: it relates to the nomination of the European Commissioners asking if the next Commission President is EPP will EU leading governments like the French government be able to nominate a Socialist Commissioner.

This is a very big question. All that I would suggest is that should an incoming President have a parliamentary majority and one of the names I referred to becomes Commission President, they are in a much better position to make demands than ever before. The example I love the best is the one I used earlier of Martin Schultz meeting as a Commission President with David Cameron and asking for a pro-European conservative. You could see how the dynamics of that process in every country are going to be different now than they were 5 years ago because the incoming Commission President is in the situation of being able to make demands and also supported by an institution, the European Parliament. In its turn, the Parliament is perfectly able to veto individual candidates if they do not live up to their promises like it has done before. So I think we will see the possibility of an incoming Commission President requesting for particular kinds of people rather than for specific individuals. For example, he or she may ask for a woman for this or that country. I think the chances of that are very high indeed given the gender balance. Whether it would go as far as a right-wing President demanding a right-wing Commissioner from the French government, it is a bit far-fetched. But in the case of somebody who is very known for their technical ability as well as their political standing, a right-wing President of the European Commission could easily request for example Pascal Lamy, the well-known Socialist, given that he has been the former Director-General of the WTO and a former Trade Commissioner and thus, given his overall experience he could be easily selected or chosen together with the French President.

András: Thank you very much for this very interesting presentation that was extremely interesting and which actually concluded our 7 webinar series that is available online. A very big thank you also to Burson Marsteller for helping with and endorsing this initiative.

Have a good afternoon everyone!

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