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The next head of the European Commission will probably be chosen in Dublin

The European People’s Party, the biggest group in the European Parliament, is choosing its candidate in Dublin.

Image: Peter Morrison/AP

THE NEXT PERSON to fill the most powerful job in the European Union will probably be chosen in Dublin.

The European People’s Party, the biggest political party at all levels of the EU administration, has confirmed it will choose its candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission at a conference to be held in Dublin next spring.

The conference will bring together the leaders of the EPP’s local member parties from all 28 EU member states – including 13 heads of government, including Enda Kenny – as well as its 13 members of the current European Commission and some of the party’s senior MEPs.

Next year’s European elections will mark the first time that ‘Europarties’, as they are known, will mount US-style Presidential campaigns – asking voters to vote for individual MEPs on the basis of which candidate they support for the European Commission’s top job.

The chosen candidate will then begin a tour of the EU, trying to drum up support for the candidates running for the EPP’s local member party, which in Ireland’s case is Fine Gael.

The idea is that the EPP will ask voters across Europe to elect EPP candidates – so that, when they take their seats in the European Parliament, they can vote in favour of electing the EPP’s candidate to lead the EU’s ‘government’.

Possible candidates include the incumbent, Portugal’s Jose Manuel Barroso, who would be seeking a third term as president.

Other prospective nominees include the veteran Commissioner from Luxembourg, Viviane Reding, the Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis, or the Polish prime minister Donald Tusk – though the latter says he wants to see out his current term as premier which lasts until 2015.

The EPP will not be the first Europarty to hold a conference in Dublin with the intent of choosing its Commission candidate.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), Fianna Fáil’s European grouping, held a conference in Dublin last November but did not formally choose a candidate. Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt is the likely candidate.

How is the European Commission actually chosen?

A candidate for the European Commission presidency is first nominated by the European Council, the body made up of the heads of government from each member state, and then sent to the European Parliament for ratification.

As the EPP has been the largest grouping in the European Parliament for some years, and currently occupies almost half of the seats at the European Council, it is likely that the EPP’s candidate will be the first in line to get the Commission’s top job.

Once the Commission president has been appointed, each individual member state (other than the one from which the Commission President comes) nominates its own candidate.

The Commission President chooses which portfolio to assign each nominee, with the European Parliament holding hearings on each candidate before voting on the appointment of the Commission as a team.

Next year’s European elections will be held earlier than usual, between May 22 and 25 – a full fortnight ahead of the usual schedule.

This is because member states want to give MEPs more time to consider the prospective nominees for the European Commission job, and offer them more time to scrutinise a possible appointee. The new Commissioners are due to take office in November 2014.

Edit: This article originally stated that Donald Rusk was a former Polish prime minister and not the incumbent. We are happy to correct this.

Read: MEPs want US-style presidential campaigns at next European elections

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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