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Europe’s Only Decision

After months of polling, speculation, and hand-wringing over the European Parliament election this month, one might think that nothing else matters. But there is a far more important question than who will lead the European Union for the next five years: What is the overarching strategic agenda that will guide their decisions?

STOCKHOLM – As the European Parliament election approaches, Europe is abuzz with speculation over who will lead the main European Union institutions for the next five years. Among the positions up for grabs are those currently held by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker; European Council President Donald Tusk; Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

Personnel issues are hardly trivial. In politics, personality matters, and it has often played a pivotal role in determining the EU’s trajectory. Still, the leadership name game should not be the main focus. Far more important is the debate over the EU’s 2019-2024 strategic agenda.

After an informal summit in Sibiu, Romania, earlier this month, European leaders will return to this issue in earnest later in June. And for all of the attention paid to the EU’s institutions, it is EU heads of state who will craft the bloc’s agenda. In other words, member-state governments, operating through the European Council, will be the actors to watch after the election results are in.