There is still more than seven months left until the next elections to the European Parliament, but in hopes of a future favourable post-election situation, political groups have already carved up the most important positions, such as the President of the European Council. At the same time, those who already saw Portuguese António Costa as the next left-wing President of the European Council all of a sudden found themselves at an impasse and had to push the ’FULL REPLENISH’ button. But do they really need to reconsider anything?
Before going into the details, it’s worth looking at the situation from a broader perspective, first of all by highlighting why the pick of the next President of the European Council is a key issue.
In November 2024, the second term of office of the current President of the European Council, Belgian Charles Michel, comes to an end. Under the existing rules, he cannot be re-elected for the third time.
The Role Of The President of The European Council And Why Is It So Impartant?
The President of the European Council plays an important role not only in the negotiations between member states, but also in the so-called external representation of the EU – it is this very dual nature that gives the President’s role such special importance. As part of his or her responsibilities, the President takes part both in the representation of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and also in various international multilateral summits.
In fact, the figure of the President of the Council gets its special importance from the perspective of the Council’s main task, which is to determine the EU’s general political direction and priorities, in particular setting the policy agenda for the EU. In 2024, ’A new strategic agenda 2019-2024’, expires. This document set out the priorities of the Council in this period and provided political guidance to other EU institutions.
Considering the above, it’s easy to see that in 2024, when the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel are likely to continue, and the European Union faces further considerable challenges on various fields including security, economic growth, migration, enlargement, environment and climate issues, etc. the decision on the next president of the European Council is a very important moment.
What Was The European Socialists’ Plan And Why Did It Fail?
No wonder, that in hopes of being successful enough in 2024 European elections and being once again the second-largest group in the Parliament, the Party of European Socialists (PES) is keen to get its hands on this Very Important Position.
Portuguese (ex-)Prime Minister António Costa, who resigned amid corruption allegations in November, was the European Socialists’ front-runner to succeed Michel as president of the European Council. Although other potential candidates such as Pedro Sanchez, Frans Timmermans and Mario Draghi were also mentioned, it was Costa who the centrist lefts saw as the key to their future success.
With such ambitious plans, Costa’s corruption scandal which soon led to his resignation was a real slap in the face of the PES.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that, although Costa immediately resigned, the Portuguese investigative bodies have so far been unable to find any evidence against him.
Political Survival in the EU As Good Practice
However unimaginable it may be, it may also be the case that Costa’s corruption scandal will not influence or prejudge his nomination by the Socialists, considering that he would not be the first politician involved in a scandal in his home country who managed to sail from domestic turbulence to distant and more peaceful European waters.
One of the best examples is Jean-Claude Juncker who, before becoming the powerful President of the European Commission, got himself into a difficult situation in Luxembourg due to an illegal wiretapping scandal linked to his government. Juncker had to resign, however, all this couldn’t stop him from running amok later on in Brussels, as President of the European Commission.
If, despite all that has happened, the European Socialists will not abandon the candidacy of the recently resigned António Costa for the President of the European Council, it would be another illustrious example of how, with Brussels’ permission, it is still possible to ignore national law enforcement and judical powers, turning a blind eye to corruption with no respect for basic moral principles, at the same time bringing trans-national interests to the fore.
Corruption Remains Corruption
It should be noted that, by envisaging Costa’s future candidacy despite his recent corruption case, we have ran far ahead – just as the PES had already sketched out its ’New European Order’, we also managed to make a time jump into the future which is a risky manoeuvre that, where possible, should be avoided.
However, it’s worth noting that, in the case of elected politicians, allegations of corruption are not just a small, easily removable stain but a stigma – a serious damage to reputation which is hardly possible either to remove or to repair since becoming corrupt is an easily-traceable, longer process with detectable milestones throughout the person’s life and career.
After all this, given the good old behind-the-scenes mechanisms in Brussels, one can only hope that one of the European Union’s top institutions will not be run by a politician with a dirty chapter in his life who still enjoys strong support from European Socialists.