Council overrides voters’ vote and goes toe-to-toe with Parliament
The European Parliament opened its new legislative period in Strasbourg on Tuesday with an anti-EU protest by the British Brexit party, as well as a demonstration by Catalan nationalists, whose members were expelled from the parliament.
The real ie of the day, however, is that the European Council overrode the vote of the electorate and nominated German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen for the top job of Commission President. The European Council has thus set itself on a course of confrontation with the EU Parliament, which already decided in May to accept only one of the top candidates for Commission President.
Donald Tusk , the president of the European Council, announced via Twitter at 7:04 p.m. Tuesday that the German defense minister will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will take over as president of the European Council. Furthermore, Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund, will be the new head of the European Central Bank and Josef Borrell Fontelles will be the new EU commissioner.
Against this attack on EU democracy pales the action of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, which with its 29 MEPs used the first day of the new term of the European Parliament to start with a protest. As outgoing speaker Antonio Tajani called the new session to order, MEPs rose for the European anthem. But not everyone stood up immediately; the anti-EU members of the British Brexit party remained demonstratively seated. Antonio Tajani responded to this gesture by saying: "Standing up is a matter of respect. That doesn’t mean you necessarily share the views of the European Union. Even if you hear the anthem of another country, you stand up." Whereupon Brexit party MEPs demonstratively stood up and turned their backs on the chamber.
Brexit Party MEP David Bull justified the action on the BBC, saying that it was just "was not a national anthem, but a federal anthem and we do not believe in a federal Eurostate".
The British delegation of the Liberal Democrats also used the opening ceremony to make a political statement. Members of the party wore bright yellow T-shirts during the opening ceremony with "Bollocks – to Brexit", the election slogan of the party.
The European Parliament will elect its president on Wednesday, putting further prere on EU leaders. But how will the Parliament behave if they are to elect the German defense minister as the new Commission president? A woman who was not a top candidate for election to the European Parliament, but was appointed by the Council. This would be a defeat for the EPP’s top candidate Manfred Weber, but still a success for the party and Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU.