Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: JOHN THYS / AFP 14:58 p.m., January 07, 2024

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, has declared his candidacy for the European Parliament elections in June and intends to leave his post in July, before the end of his mandate. This decision has been criticised, including within his political family, and raises thorny institutional questions.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel of Belgium, has declared his candidacy in the European Parliament elections next June and intends to leave his post in July, before the end of his mandate, which raises thorny institutional questions. "I have decided to stand as a candidate in the European elections in June 2024," he told several Belgian media outlets, including Le Soir and La Libre Belgique. "This means that I will carry out my function as President of the European Council until I am sworn in as an MEP, which will take place on 16 July," said Charles Michel, 48, whose term was due to end at the end of November 2024.

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"After the European elections, at the end of June, beginning of July, it is planned that the European Council will meet and take decisions, in particular to appoint my successor," added the former Belgian prime minister, who will lead the list of the Reform Movement (MR, the French-speaking liberal party). "We can anticipate this entry into office," said Charles Michel, whose premature departure is already drawing criticism.

EU procedures stipulate, in the event of the end of the term of office due to an "impediment", that the President of the European Council is replaced until a successor is elected, by the European leader whose country holds the six-month presidency of the Council of the EU (i.e. leads European meetings at ministerial level). In July, however, it is Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, no stranger to anti-EU diatribes, who will be in this position. However, Charles Michel considered that it was possible to "change (these provisions) by a simple majority".

"The captain leaves the ship"

Dutch MEP Sophie in't Veld, from Renew Europe (centrists and liberals), Charles Michel's political family, slammed the departure. "The captain leaves the ship in the middle of a storm. If this is your lack of interest in the fate of the European Union, what credibility do you have as a candidate?" she wrote on X (ex-Twitter).

The Belgian was chosen in July 2019 to succeed Poland's Donald Tusk as president of the European Council, an institution that brings together the heads of state or government of the member states, during the distribution of "top jobs". In this capacity, he has been responsible for leading the work of EU summits for the past four years.

Elections to the European Parliament will take place from 6 to 9 June 2024 in the 27 EU countries. They will lead to a renewal at the head of the European institutions, including the Commission and the European Council. The MEPs, who will be 720 at the end of the 2024 election, are elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term.