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16th Jan 2019

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Former farm minister eyed as Spain's next EU commissioner

  • Miguel Arias Canete - twice a farm minister and now again an MEP (Photo: La Moncloa Gobierno de España)

Spain has not yet formally decided who will be the country's next EU commissioner but all eyes are on conservative MEP and former agriculture minister Miguel Arias Canete who became famous abroad for a sexist remark he made during the European Parliament (EP) election campaign.

Canete had excused his inferior performance in a television debate between him – as the head candidate for Partido Popular – and the socialist head candidate Elena Valenciano by saying: "If you abuse your intellectual superiority you come across like a macho who is pushing a defenceless woman into a corner."

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He apologised five days later saying that it was an "unfortunate" comment.

But the opposition were quick to use the comment against him in the campaign. French prime minister Manuel Valls and German socialist EP president Martin Schultz also joined the criticism.

Although prime minister Mariano Rajoy is still keeping his lips sealed on the subject of the future Spanish commissioner, he is expected to choose the two times former minister of agriculture.

When asked by the press recently if he was in the running for the post, Canete replied: "I don't know, ask Mr Rajoy."

While Rajoy's answer is pending, the 64-year old Canete is concentrating on organising the Partido Popular's 16 MEPs in the European People's Party group in the European parliament.

He recently told Spanish daily El Mundo that he hopes Ramon Luis Valcarcel will become one of the vice-presidents of the EP.

Valcarcel was until recently the president of the region of Murcia and is still the president of the EU's Committee of the Regions.

Canete himself is no stranger to the European parliament having formed his political career in Brussels as an MEP from 1986 until 1999. During that time he chaired the agricultural and regional policy committees.

He served as the minister of agriculture and fishing from 2000 until 2004 under the government of José María Aznar. And from 2011 he was agriculture and environment minister until his appointment in April as lead MEP candidate for the Partido Popular.

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