European Council leader to step down, run EU race

2024-01-09 10:23:50China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

European Council President Charles Michel has announced his intention to run in European Union elections in June, prematurely ending his presidency, which was scheduled to continue until November, and plunging the bloc into significant uncertainty.

Michel said he wants to seek election as a member of the European Parliament on behalf of his center-right Reformist Movement in the elections set for June 6 to 9.

"I think it is extremely important to be accountable," he told journalists as he announced his decision.

He will need to step down as European Council president before he can take up his seat as an MEP on July 16.

Michel, formerly prime minister of Belgium, said he will campaign to strengthen the EU's security and defense capabilities.

"If we want to be impactful in the long term, we need to develop this pillar," the Financial Times quoted him as saying.

Michel's successor as president of the European Council will need to be agreed upon by the governments of the EU's 27 member nations.

If no consensus is reached before July 16, the role will temporarily be filled by the country functioning as the bloc's presiding nation on a six-month rotation, which will be Hungary as of July 1.

The European Council president has a mediatory role and is responsible for organizing meetings of ministers and summits of national leaders on issues, including foreign affairs and finance.

It is different from the role of the European Commission president, which is currently held by Ursula von der Leyen, and is responsible for setting the bloc's legislative agenda.

The election in June will give voters a chance to pick lawmakers from a wide range of political parties. The party with the largest parliamentary grouping usually gets to pick the commission president.

The latest polls suggest European nations have shifted to the right since the last election and that far-right candidates may do well in June. Election analyst EU Elects said on Dec 30 the far-right Identity and Democracy group was on course to overtake the Renew liberal group to become the third-largest faction in the European Parliament.

Michel has served as chief of the European Council since 2019 and would not have been able to continue in office beyond November, having served his maximum term. He insisted his decision to stand down early has not created a problem for the bloc but merely means EU leaders must agree on his replacement a few months early.


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