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Frans Timmermans fired up at the Socialists & Democrats congress in Lisbon Photo: European Parliament The Spitzen process – a coup that was never accepted It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration. By Eszter Zalan National governments view it with suspicion, while diplomats talk of a 'coup' by the European Parliament. EU officials argue it increases the democratic legitimacy of the whole bloc, giving voters an (indirect) say in who will run the next European Commission. The spectrum of arguments for and against is almost as wide as the gap that remains between citizens and the leaders of European institutions, but the 2019 EU elections could finally decide the fate of the so-called Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) process itself. That piece of EU-jargon stands for giving a larger say to the European parliament in choosing the next head of the EU executive: created in 2014, the new process came to symbolise the serious and never-ending power struggle between the parliament and member states. Two Germans, the European parliament's secretary general, Klaus Welle – no less shadowy and powerful than his compatriot heading the commission's services, Martin Selmayr – plus the parliament president at the time, Germany's Martin Schulz, came up with the idea of having political parties announce their 'lead candidates' for commission president ahead of the election itself. The lead candidate whose party can muster a majority alliance in the new parliament would then lead the European commission, requiring only a nod from member states. EU governments viewed the process with scepticism but woke up too late to lobby against it, finding themselves having to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker to head the EU executive, after German chancellor Angela Merkel finally caved in to the process. The Spitzenkandidat process has its basis in the Treaty of Lisbon, which says that member states can propose a president for the commission "taking into account the elections" to the parliament, with the European parliament voting on the person. Last time - which was the first time it was used - 09 — EUROPEAN PARLIAMANT ELECTIONS 2019