EU President Resigns; Brussels is looking for a successor

The President of the European Council, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, is standing as a candidate for the European Parliament elections. He announced this on Sunday at the party conference of his liberal party in Wallonia. If elected, Michel will prematurely step down from his position as EU president in June.

The Belgian politician says that European government leaders can make a decision on his succession as early as their July meeting, if necessary temporarily. This places the European heads of state in a dilemma, because at that time - so soon after the elections - there will be no clarity about the filling of other EU top positions. 

A new European Commission must also be formed in the autumn, including the presidency. It can be heard in the corridors of Brussels that the German Christian Democrats Ursula von der Leyen aspires to a second term in office. Then the jigsaw puzzle also arises as to who (which country, which party) can provide a Commissioner, who will become president of the European Bank, who will be the new boss of NATO and so on.

The fact that Belgian liberal Michel is already informing the EU heads of state that he is resigning (and must be replaced) is putting great pressure on the EU Council. The European prime ministers will want to prevent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban from actively interfering with all kinds of EU appointments in the second half of 2024. Orban is considered a troublemaker within the EU. Hungary will hold the EU presidency as scheduled in the second half of 2024. 

Five years ago, French President Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ultimately determined how top European positions were divided. Charles Michel eventually became chairman of the EU Council of Ministers, also known as 'president of the EU'. 

It was whispered in Brussels corridors at the time that Rutte could have taken that position himself, but that he then opted to continue his premiership in the Netherlands.

Rutte has now resigned and is only a caretaker (acting) prime minister in The Hague, and has recently announced that he wants to become Secretary General of NATO. There are two other candidates for that top position. A decision on the succession of the current SG, Jens Stoltenberg, has already been postponed twice. It is not known whether Rutte is interested in other international positions.

Michel did not want to comment in the Belgian media on whether his candidacy for a parliamentary seat also means that he would be interested in other European top positions, or whether he wants to succeed his party colleague Didier Reynders as EU commissioner of Belgium.