November 26, 2018
Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
Manfred Weber, German. Frans Timmermans, Dutch. And now Ska Keller and Bas Eickhout, German and Dutch. The four spitzenkandidaten from the three mainstream European parties — the EPP, the Social Democrats, and the Greens — that have decided to field them in the next European elections all come from just two countries. And not any two countries, two neighbours standing in the eyes of many citizens for a particularly rigid, unbending and unforgiving approach to the problems less prosperous states encounter in the EU.
ALDE’s liberals have decided to appoint a whole team of candidates for Jean-Claude Juncker’s succession, expanding the range of nationalities; but their impact will inevitably be diluted. Seen from an internal perspective, the nomination of Keller and Eickhout as green spitzenkandidaten makes sense. Keller represents, as she did in 2014, the European Greens’ strongest national party. Eickhout is one of the best thinkers the party can currently boast. Their positions on issues such as Eurozone reform do not represent the orthodoxy of their countries. Reducing Keller to a German and Eickhout to a Dutch politician would ignore what they stand for politically.
But politics is shaped by perception as much as by fact. In 2014, the main spitzenkandidaten were Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt, Ska Keller and José Bové. This time around, the regional imbalance is even more extreme. In Andalusia’s current regional elections, the Podemos' leader Pablo Iglesias whips up popular anger by campaigning on the theme of a South forgotten by the elites and by Europe. The current field of spitzenkandidaten provides perfect fodder for Europe’s southern and Eastern anti-Brussels populists. It seems that everything ahead of the 2019 elections conspires to discredit the spitzenkandidat model.