Charles Michel abandons plans to run in European Parliament elections

European Council president’s U-turn means he will not have to step down before end of his mandate in December

European Council president Charles Michel has abandoned his plan to seek a seat in the European Parliament this summer and will instead remain in his job, three weeks after announcing he would run in the elections.

The U-turn means the former Belgian prime minister will continue to chair EU summits and represent the views of the bloc’s 27 leaders, and will not step down before the end of his mandate in December as he would have been forced to in order to take a seat in the legislature after the June elections.

The unexpected decision comes six days before a crucial summit of EU leaders where the future of the bloc’s financial support to Ukraine will be decided. Brussels is under intense pressure to find a compromise deal that will allow Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban to drop his veto against using the shared budget.

Mr Michel’s decision to run as an MEP candidate for the Reformist Movement party in Belgium, where he was almost certain to win a seat, was criticised by some politicians as a dereliction of his duty to the bloc’s other leaders.


A failure to find an immediate successor would have led to Mr Orban taking on the powers of the position due to Hungary in July assuming the rotating presidency of the the EU council, the institution that represents member states, which is separate from the European Council of leaders.

There was some speculation that either Taoiseach Leo Varadkar or Tánaiste Micheál Martin would have been candidates for the post. Both, however, said recently that they intended to lead their respective parties into the next general election.

Others privately criticised Mr Michel’s intention to continue as president while also a candidate for the parliament, claiming that it would not be fair or allow him to be representative of all political views in the EU.

The decision also sparked a surge of discussions over the speed and direction of the process to nominate the next group of politicians to lead the EU’s institutions after the June elections.

Mr Michel said in a statement that his reversal was due to “extreme reactions” and “personal attacks” in response to his initial decision, adding that he would “devote all my efforts to my current responsibilities”.

“I don’t want this decision [to run for parliament] to distract us from our mission or undermine this institution and our European project, nor be misused in any way to divide the European Council, which I believe must work tirelessly for European unity,” he said.

Mr Michel’s decision to abandon his run for parliament was met with support from officials from EU countries, said people close to the president. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024

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