The European Council in 2019

Tanulmány 30-11-2021

The year 2019 provided a respite for the European Council from crisis management, but was not without major challenges. Three stood out: the Spitzenkandidaten process for selecting the next President of the European Commission; Brexit, which unexpectedly remained on the agenda of the European Council throughout the year; and policy towards climate change. The European Council had mixed feelings about the Spitzenkandidaten process, with one of its leading members being adamantly opposed. That set the stage for a bruising battle, which culminated in an epic special summit, lasting from 30 June to 2 July. None of the transnational parties’ lead candidates received the European Council’s nomination. Instead, the European Council nominated a relative outsider, Ursula von der Leyen, as part of a package of appointments to leading EU positions, the cleverness of which managed to overcome differences among national leaders. Meanwhile, the inability of the UK government to win parliamentary support for the Withdrawal Agreement obliged the UK to request extensions of the deadline. Much to its surprise, the European Council met in the Article 50 format on four occasions in 2019, the last one being on 13 December, to discuss preparations for the negotiations on future EU-UK relations after the UK’s eventual departure, which happened on 31 January 2020. Climate was another issue to the fore in 2019, as the European Council sought to reach unanimity on a commitment by the EU to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Failure to reach unanimity, during difficult negotiations at the December summit, was seen as a setback for the new President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who was attending his first meeting of the institution in that capacity.