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Role and election of the President of the European Commission

Written by Silvia Kotanidis,

Extraordinary meeting of the EP Conference of Presidents with Ursula von der LEYEN, candidate for President of the European Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

The President of the European Commission has taken on an ever more prominent leading role within the College of Commissioners, with the increasingly presidential system eclipsing the principle of collegiate decision-making. With the European Parliament now more involved in the appointment, the Presidency has not only become a much more politicised office, but the President has also gained greater influence vis-à-vis the other members of the Commission.

The Commission President plays a crucial role in relations between Parliament and Commission. Presenting his or her priorities to Parliament prior to election sets the course for the whole term, on which the President will be called to account by Parliament. Building on this, Parliament has an increasingly prominent role in political agenda-setting, shaping the EU’s legislative programming together with the Commission and the Council.

At the end of President Barroso’s second term as Commission President, many had criticised the lack of ambitious initiatives undertaken, whereas others believe that the economic and institutional difficulties which the EU faced made this inevitable. The legacy of President Juncker’s mandate can claim, on the one hand, to show progress in trade and defence, although some maintain that more ambition could have been displayed in other areas, for instance on the digital market or monetary union. On the other hand, the Juncker Commission introduced some significant changes in the College’s working methods and a more political role for the Commission.

Whereas Jean-Claude Juncker had been a Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) in the European elections, Ursula von der Leyen, nominated as candidate for the Commission presidency by the European Council on 2 July, was not. As none of the Spitzenkandidaten were seen to have a clear majority in Parliament, it remains to be seen whether an ‘outsider’ from that process can muster the support of the required majority of Parliament’s component Members at the time of the election, currently planned for the July II plenary session.

This is an updated edition of a 2014 briefing drafted by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Role and election of the President of the European Commission‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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