Charles Michel withdraws from European election
Charles Michel has decided to withdraw his candidacy for the European election and to complete his mandate as president of the European Council, he told Belga on Friday.
"I do not wish for controversies to divert us from what is essential and harm the institution I preside over, and therefore the European project," Michel said, acknowledging that he had underestimated "the extent and radicality of certain negative reactions" when he announced he would stand in this year's European elections.
"I note that hurtful attacks increasingly take precedence over factual and objective arguments. In my opinion, this affects the evolution of democratic life," he said. "On a personal level, it leads me to question the meaning and impact that an electoral commitment, to which I have devoted my life for 30 years, represents not only for me but also for my loved ones."
The withdrawal comes 20 days after Michel announced he would be the lead candidate for francophone liberal party MR in the European elections on 9 June. His probable election would have compelled him to resign before the end of his mandate as Council president - scheduled for 30 November - and at the latest during the swearing-in before the European Parliament during the mid-July plenary session.
Apprehension over replacement
Critics accused Michel of putting his personal interest before the common good. Some also pointed out the risk of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán leading Council meetings if the 27 member states fail to agree on a successor before Michel's resignation. Hungary takes over the rotating presidency of the EU from Belgium on 1 July. However, observers considered this scenario unlikely.
Michel said he saw his candidacy as "a taking of responsibility aimed at strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the European project, starting from the European Parliament". He believed that announcing his decision early enough would give heads of government sufficient time to prepare for the transition.
"My choice has sparked lively media controversies," he said. "I had anticipated some of them, given the unprecedented - bold, some would say - aspect of my approach. But I underestimated the extent and radicality of certain negative reactions - not within the European Council but outside of it - at the prospect of my participation in the European campaign."
He said he was committed to "fulfilling my responsibility with total determination until its term". At the end of this mandate, "I will take the time to reflect on the nature and direction of my future commitment."
It is not yet known who will replace Michel on the MR list.
© PHOTO JORGE GUERRERO / AFP