Radek Sikorski, the Centre-Right (EPP) Foreign Minister of Poland is taking French lessons. According to euobserver he is betting on getting the EU's HRVP post currently occupied by Catherine Ashton of the Socialists. Learing to speak French would secure the support of the French government in his appointment since French is apparently the international language of diplomacy.
Since the President of the European Commission will come from the party family that wins the European Parliament elections (currently the EPP), and the President of the European Council will be appointed by the majority party among the Heads of Government (also the EPP), the post of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission (HRVP) is allocated as the runner-up prize (currently to the Socialists).
Does the fact that Radek Sikorski and Carl Bildt are so hotly tipped for HRVP show that the EPP is planning to lose the EP elections or does it show that EPP is planning to win and to carve up all the posts without any consolation prizes for the Socialists? Could the EU be moving in a more majoritarian/winner-takes-all system?
In recent days the European Commission has asked for € 3.9 billion extra to supplement the EU’s annual budget of 2013. This has unleashed some predictable opposition from Eurosceptics including those in the British government:
What is at stake and what is the fuss?
First of all, the EU’s annual budget usually works out at around 130 to 140 billion euro in payments. The amount requested by the Commission is for bills due (and originally agreed) for the annual budget just for this year. This money is neither for next year nor for the far larger multiannual agreement for the years 2014-2020, which has still not been ratified by the European Parliament.
So how come the Commission waits until late September before asking for a top-up on the budget for 2013? According to EU rules, annual budgets are agreed in two figures: commitments and payments. Commitments are the maximum to which the EU “commits” itself to spend in any one policy area. Payments are only fully released once all the conditions of the commitments have been met. Because conditions are never met by 100% payments always come in lower than commitments. EU spending is planned over multiannual projects – hence one of the reasons why spending is agreed within a multiannual framework. Commitments agreed in the annual budget of 2010 trigger the award of contracts and the start of spending programmes. Some payments for those programmes are released up front with the balance payable upon completion when the recipient can show that the programme is successfully delivered and that expenditure is justified. Usually this takes place after two or three years on a basis called N+2 or N+3.
The Commission very simply is claiming that the original budget for 2013 agreed 10 months ago provided insufficient payments to cover what is due for contracts and commitments agreed by the Council of the EU (representing national governments) in 2010 and 2011 under N+2 or N+3. Regional governments and other recipients have made justified claims for payments based on commitments from several years ago. The British government claims that such payments don’t need extra amounts to be voted but could be funded through recycling unspent funds elsewhere in the budget.
In the end, legal arguments are made by the Commission and the European Parliament. Certain national governments will try to oppose voting the funds due to domestic Euroscepticism. However, in the background is multiannual budgeting for 2014-2020. The European Parliament has made very clear that it will not approve the new multiannual agreement that takes effect at the start of 2014 unless all the outstanding bills for 2013 are paid by the Council. The proposed multiannual agreement cuts commitments and payments by 5% compared to the previous agreement. No agreement, if that is what happens, will mean that the current agreement for 2007-2013 will roll over with an increase for inflation. In other words, if the British want to pay less with the new agreement, for 2013 only they will have to pay more. The dispute on the final € 3.9 billion for the budget of 2013 is therefore worth more than the sum of its parts.
A party that loses 46% of its parliamentarians through defection or expulsion in little over four years is not a normal party. UKIP is expected to win the 2014 EP elections in the UK and yet anyone voting UKIP deserves to be informed that based on previous experience there is a 46% probability that any of its elected MEPs will defect or adopt positions so extreme that they are expelled.
Besides his comments on the status of women who don’t clean behind the fridge, Bloom may have been kicked out of UKIP for other more embarrassing reasons about which I write here. He was a founding member of the extreme-right and racist European Alliance for Freedom along with Flemish, French and Austrian MEPs from the extreme-right.
Global Governance in the German Elections: Not exactly a Priority - Anja Jakobi
The upcoming German elections are of high significance of Germany and Europe as a whole. However, the outcome will probably leave fewer marks on how Germany behaves with respect to wider foreign policy and global governance. The European Union remains the most urgent issue on the international agenda of Germany, even if it is mainly reduced to questions of the Euro and the protection of German savings and money (see also the other analyses in this blog).
With regard to other global issues, like Syria, military operations abroad or interventions are rejected by many Germans, while peace and diplomacy is usually highlighted as the essence of global governance: For instance, both the Liberals and the Social Democrats explicitly mention ‘peace politics’ as aim of their foreign policy in their programs. The German reluctance towards interventions was recently witnessed when Merkel was not immediately signing the declaration on Syria at the G20 summit: A move that seemed to isolate Merkel internationally, but was unlikely to result in a loss of votes. If Merkel remains chancellor, her reluctance in taking quick decisions might overshadow even the most vivid Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is even more likely given that the Chancellors’ Office in recent years increasingly challenged the primacy of the Foreign Ministry regarding foreign policy issues.
The election outcome is most likely to determine the priorities of efforts by which issues are tackled. If the current government remains in place, it is likely that the new Foreign Minister is again of the FDP, given this party’s traditional interest in foreign policy. As a result, economic priorities are higher, while global social issues or development are less likely to be tackled intensively.
A permanent seat in the UN Security Council had been a long term goal of German foreign policy, but only the current program of the CDU/CSU still formulates the idea for a German seat – and it does so with a view to a long-term representation of the EU as a whole. With regard to security and trade, SPD and Greens aim to restrict Germany’s international weapons’ trade: the country is currently one of the largest weapons’ exporters and facing increasing domestic debates about exports to countries that violate human rights. The coalition so far pursued a rather pragmatic policy in this field, often emphasizing the economic interests in such a trade.
The current coalition would progress on negotiating a transatlantic free trade union with the United States. This is explicitly mentioned as a goal in the programmes of CDU/CSU and FDP. In contrast, the SPD focuses more on ILO and WTO reforms, and the Greens refer to their preference of multilateral trade agreements. A SPD/Green government would thus be a more reluctant partner in these negotiations, and such a coalition would place more emphasis on social and environmental impact of such treaty, including protectionist measures. A large coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD would highly value economic prosperity, but would likely agree to higher protectionism than an FDP partner.
A highly visible impact of a coalition change would likely be global environmental governance: Environmental policy is of great interest to many Germans, in particular global climate change. In that sense, the surprising turn of the Merkel government from pro-nuclear energy to alternative energies after the Fukushima nuclear accident mirrored the mood of large part of the German population. However, global environmental governance is more likely to be a side issue if the current coalition will be re-elected again. The German government liberal FDP as partner in the coalition usually puts economic questions first, which also appeals to a significant base of the conservative CDU/CSU.
Quite the contrast, global environmental questions related to climate change and other topics would likely to be more prominent in a coalition government of the SPD and the Greens: The Greens are a party that defines itself as being primed for developing environmental protection; and the current programme mentions ecological questions with regard to domestic and international policies. But also the SPD aims to start new international activities against climate change. While a SPD/Green government would thus likely push for a renewed global climate initiative, a large coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD would probably meet somewhere in the middle, environment being a concern for both of them, but often secondary to economic and social questions.
All in all, the German election is unlikely to stir major changes in most areas of global governance. The most visible differences in the German managing of global governance are likely to be high profile issues of the parties, like the environment or a transatlantic free trade zone.
Dr Anja Jakobi is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London
 SPD Wahlprogramm: ‘Das Wir entscheidet’, p. 110; http://www.spd.de/linkableblob/96686/data/; FDP Wahlprogramm: ‚Bürgerprogramm 2013: Damit Deutschland stark bleibt’, p. 85, http://www.fdp.de/files/408/B_rgerprogramm_A5_Online_2013-07-23.pdf
 CDU/CSU Wahlprogramm‚Gemeinsam erfolgreich für Deutschland’, p. 75 http://www.cdu.de/sites/default/files/media/dokumente/regierungsprogramm-2013-2017-langfassung-20130911.pdf
Gruenes Wahlprogramm 2013: ‚Zeit für den grünen Wandel’ , p. 19; http://www.gruene.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Dokumente/Wahlprogramm/Wahlprogramm-barrierefrei.pdf
 CDU/CSU Wahlprogramm‚Gemeinsam erfolgreich für Deutschland’, p. 16
http://www.cdu.de/sites/default/files/media/dokumente/regierungsprogramm-2013-2017-langfassung-20130911.pdf; FDP Wahlprogramm: ‚Bürgerprogramm 2013: Damit Deutschland stark bleibt’, p. 23, http://www.fdp.de/files/408/B_rgerprogramm_A5_Online_2013-07-23.pdf; SPD Wahlprogramm: ‘Das Wir entscheidet’, p. 113-114; http://www.spd.de/linkableblob/96686/data/; Gruenes Wahlprogramm 2013: ‚Zeit für den grünen Wandel’ , p. 299; http://www.gruene.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Dokumente/Wahlprogramm/Wahlprogramm-barrierefrei.pdf
 Gruenes Wahlprogramm 2013: ‚Zeit für den grünen Wandel’ http://www.gruene.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Dokumente/Wahlprogramm/Wahlprogramm-barrierefrei.pdf
My colleague James Sloam writes here about the likely outcomes of the German election.
The most likely outcome is still a majority for CDU-CSU + FDP. If they don't have enough seats, then the next most likely outcomes are either a grand coalition of CDU-CSU + SPD or a coalition of CDU-CSU plus the Greens. But what happens if the CDU-CSU is unable to come to an agreement with either the SPD or the Greens? In 2005, this is what happened following the elections. After some time in which the SPD and CDU did not speak to each other, a Grand Coalition was subsequently formed.
For further guidance, we need to look at Article 63 of the German Basic Law or Constitution. First, the Federal President nominates a Chancellor. If the Bundestag rejects this nomination, which it has never done, then the Bundestag moves to elect a Chancellor of its own volition within 14 days and by an absolute majority. In 1949, this condition was inserted in case the President abused his powers of appointment in the same way as President Hindenburg back in 1925-34. In practice, the President has since 1949 always nominated the clear leader of the winning coalition. In 2005, Angela Merkel was eventually nominated with the consent of the SPD and was in any case the leader of the largest party. Article 63(4) tells us that if after 14 days an absolute majority in the Bundestag fails to elect a Chancellor, it will then proceed to elect a Chancellor by simple majority. If there is no absolute majority the President may decide either to accept that Chancellor or to dissolve the Bundestag for new elections.
In other words, if an election is inconclusive and nobody can find an overall majority in the Bundestag, the President has a significant - and never used - power to choose to go for new elections or indeed to veto a dissolution and to accept a government without an overall majority.
In 2005, it was probably the threat of using this power (rather than its actual use) that led to the Grand Coalition. The President may well have told Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schröder that he would not consent to a second dissolution.