The European Parliament regularly receives enquiries from citizens on the election of the President of the European Commission and the process known as ‘Spitzenkandidaten‘ or ‘lead candidates’.
Under the Treaty on European Union, EU leaders in the European Council propose the candidate for the President of the European Commission. However, EU leaders need to do so while ‘taking into account’ the results of the European elections and ‘after having held the appropriate consultations’ (Article 17.7 of the Treaty). The European Parliament then elects the Commission President by a majority of its members (376 of 751 votes).
In 2014, European political parties appointed lead candidates for the European Parliament elections (sometimes referred to as Spitzenkandidaten, in German); with the presidency of the Commission going to the candidate from the largest political group in the European Parliament. This process led to the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President.
In 2019, the European Parliament is committed to repeating the lead candidate process, with the presidency of the Commission going to the candidate capable of gathering sufficient parliamentary support. The European Parliament made clear that it stands ready to reject any candidate who was not appointed as a lead candidate. While the Commission and its President have equally expressed strong support for the lead candidate process, the European Council has emphasised that it has the autonomous competence to nominate the candidate, and insisted that ‘there is no automaticity in this process’.
Ahead of the 2019 European elections, seven European political parties have put forward one or several lead candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. You can find out more on who they are on the European Parliament website.
Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.
- Election of the President of the European Commission: Understanding the Spitzenkandidaten process, European Parliamentary Research Service, 2019.
- European Parliament position on the lead candidate process, European Parliament, 7 February 2018.