The Spitzenkandidaten process – is there room for civil society?

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In a bit more than a year from now, in early November 2024, the mandate of current von der Leyen Commission (2019-2024) will officially come to an end. A new Commission mandate will kick in and will last until 2029.

While most senior Commission staffers will keep their positions, the political leadership of the European Union executive, the 27 Commissioners and their personal cabinets, is likely to go through significant changes, based on the results of the 2024 EU elections and shifts in national governments since the last EU elections in 2019.

The Spitzenkandidaten process explained

Ahead of European elections, European political parties appoint their lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the expectation that the Presidency will go to the candidate capable of securing sufficient parliamentary support. This procedure is known in the Brussels bubble as the “Spitzenkandidaten process”, or a lead candidate process.

According to Article 17(7) of the Treaty on European Union, the Commission President is elected by an European Parliament majority after the European Council, acting by qualified majority and considering the results of the European Parliaments election, proposes a candidate for the role. The Spitzenkandidaten process therefore has no legal basis in the Treaties making it a fully political procedure established in an attempt to bring citizens closer to European decision-making processes.

The lead candidate process ran for the first time in 2014, when Jean-Claude Juncker, the European People’s Party (EPP) lead candidate, was elected Commission President. The process did not run as smoothly in 2019. Although she was not the EPP candidate, Ursula von der Leyen was proposed by the Council as Commission President, largely due to Emmanuel Macron’s opposition to the candidacy of EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber. With one success and one failure of the Spitzenkandidaten process, the 2024 elections are likely to determine the face of the system.

Advocacy opportunities

But what does this mean for civil society? First of all, the lead candidates, to be announced in early 2024 at the latest, will be in the forefront of the electoral campaigns, presenting the political programme of their parties across the European Union. These programmes or “manifestos” are currently being drafted. Some parties are open to external inputs, which allows organisations to already engage now by providing input and sharing ideas.

Another major opportunity is to engage in the European Parliament hearing of the next President-designate, in the summer of 2024, to ensure that new President delivers their pre-electoral and commits to new political promises.


If you would like to discuss how we can help you navigate the next EU Commission and Parliament mandate, and/ or how we can help you with your advocacy at the EU level, please get in touch through the contact form.