Defying Macron, Juncker says sees no transnational lists for 2019 EU elections

Jean-Claude Juncker also said the lead candidate of the biggest political party should again be made president of the executive European Commission.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gestures towards a journalist while welcoming Croatian Prime Minister ahead of a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, on 14 February 2018. Picture: AFP

BRUSSELS - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there was no time to implement transnational voting lists for European Parliament elections next year, putting himself at odds with French President Emmanuel Macron who has called for them.

Juncker also said the lead candidate of the biggest political party should again be made president of the executive European Commission, a procedure Macron has criticised as being against EU rules.

Macron, one of Europe’s most pro-EU heads of government, put forward the ideas of some candidates for the European Parliament running on transnational voting rosters, but EU lawmakers last week rejected such a plan.

“After the EU Parliament’s vote I cannot see how this could be done for 2019,” Juncker told a news conference on Wednesday, adding that he liked the idea of such lists in general.

At present, every EU member state has its own voting list, with Britons voting for British MEPs, French voters for French MEPs and so on.

Juncker said that in addition to the negative vote in parliament, such a proposal would still need to be endorsed by EU member states, further delaying the implementation before voters head to the polls in May of next year.

The European Commission will also need to find a replacement for Juncker who has headed the EU executive since November 2014.

The 63-year-old ex-prime minister of Luxembourg said he wanted to stick to the system by which the lead candidate of a political party in the elections for the European Parliament becomes the main candidate for the top Commission post.

“We have agreed today that we want to stick to the experience we have made in 2014 when I was the Spitzenkandidat of my party,” Juncker said, using the German word for lead candidate by which the system is known in EU circles.

In the “Spitzenkandidaten” system, the political groups in Europe, such as the conservative EPP, the social democratic S&D and the liberal ALDE group put forward their main candidate whom they expect to become the president of the European Commission.

Juncker was the main candidate for the EPP in 2014, which won some 29% of the European vote.

While Macron founded his own political party, Republique En Marche, to storm to victory in France’s presidential elections last year, he has still not said to which European political family his party would belong.

“All of those running for the European Parliament have to declare well before the European elections to what group they would belong in case they are elected,” Juncker said.

“Citizens don’t like to vote for black cats.”