Members' Research Service By / November 8, 2018

Election of the President of the European Commission: Understanding the Spitzenkandidaten process [Policy Podcast]

What became known as the ‘Spitzenkandidaten process’ is a procedure whereby European political parties, ahead of European elections, appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the presidency of the Commission then going to the candidate of the political party capable of marshalling sufficient parliamentary support.

Lead candidates of the six European political parties due to participate in the Eurovision debate, to be held in Parliament’s Brussels hemicycle, on 15 May 2019.

Written by Laura Tilindyte (updated on 5.4.2019),

Lead candidates of the six European political parties due to participate in the Eurovision debate, to be held in Parliament’s Brussels hemicycle, on 15 May 2019.
Lead candidates of the six European political parties due to participate in the Eurovision debate, to be held in Parliament’s Brussels hemicycle, on 15 May 2019.

The European Parliament has long sought to ensure that, by voting in European elections, European citizens not only elect the Parliament itself, but also have a say over who would head the EU executive – the European Commission. What became known as the ‘Spitzenkandidaten process’ is a procedure whereby European political parties, ahead of European elections, appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the presidency of the Commission then going to the candidate of the political party capable of marshalling sufficient parliamentary support. The Parliament remains firmly committed to repeating the process in 2019 and, with EP elections now only weeks away, attention has shifted to the European political parties. A number of parties have nominated lead candidates, and this briefing gives an overview of their nominees, as well as looking more broadly at the process.

This is a revised and further updated edition of an earlier briefing; previous edition from February 2019.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Election of the President of the European Commission: Understanding the Spitzenkandidaten process‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Turnout in European Parliament elections, 1979-2014
Turnout in European Parliament elections, 1979-2014

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