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The success of the UK Independence Party in last week's European elections has attracted a lot of media attention in the UK, but less attention has been devoted to the results on a European level as a whole. At European level, the centre-right EPP took the largest share of the seats ahead of the Socialist Group, the Liberals and the Greens.
Although some Member States bucked the trend by backing leftwing parties, the headline gains in the European elections went to nationalist and anti-EU parties who had massive success in Britain, Denmark and France, and generally made gains across Europe. However, despite the gains, it remains to be seen whether those parties can and will work together to influence new legislation at the EU level or merely use their position to seek to influence politics at a national level.
With the conclusion of the election of MEPs, the decision process as to who will be the new President of the European Commission begins.
EPP's candidate for the European Commission President is Jean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. As the candidate for the party who gained the most seats in the European Parliament, Juncker would seem like the obvious choice for the job as whoever becomes President will need to be able to rely upon a large majority in the European Parliament in order to be able to push through difficult legislation.
However, tensions within the party mean that a successful bid for the Presidency from Juncker is far from a foregone conclusion. He is said to have faced opposition at a recent meeting of EPP leaders from the Prime Ministers of Sweden and Hungary and even Angela Merkel (who proposed Juncker as President for the European Commission) has been circumspect in her public statements, referring to treaty obligations conferred by the Treaty of Lisbon (amending the Treaty on European Union) which require the heads of state and government to agree on a candidate by a 'qualified majority'. There is no obligation in the Treaty to pick the candidate chosen by the winning party, but the nomination of a candidate should take into account the results of the European election.
A single name is unlikely to be decided upon for a number of weeks and even when a candidate has been agreed, the Commission as a whole will require approval from the new Parliament and so it's unlikely that a final position will be settled before October at the earliest.
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