Sunday

24th Jan 2021

Centre-right to propose own candidate for Commission president

Encouraged by its victory in last Sunday's European elections, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) plans to nominate its own candidate for the presidency of the European Commission - most probably the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

The leader of the EPP in the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, said on Monday (14 June) that his party had "the right" to choose a candidate from its own political ranks.

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The EPP wants to choose its candidate on Wednesday night, on the eve the EU summit where member states will decide who will be future chief of the Brussels executive.

The most likely candidate to be "appointed" by the conservatives is the Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, although he keeps denying his interest in the position.

After winning the vote in his country on Sunday, Mr Juncker said: "My party has won the elections. Thus, I will stay in Luxembourg".

But after a recent tour of EU capitals, Irish Prime Minister and President of the European Council Bertie Ahern said: "Everybody wants him".

Mr Ahern, however, is also still in the race for the top post himself.

The Franco-German candidate: Guy Verhofstadt

Another conservative candidate could possibly be Austrian Prime Minister Wolfgang Schüssel, but he risks being vetoed by Paris - because of his willingness to form a coalition in 2000 with the far-right Freedom Party in Austria.

By choosing its own candidate, the EPP wants to hinder the election of the Belgian liberal Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt as Commission president.

However, according to the Financial Times Deutschland, sources in the German and French governments say the two countries are set to push Mr Verhofstadt as the common Franco-German candidate at the EU summit.

But particularly after the surge of the UK eurosceptics in the European elections, it remains unclear whether UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is prepared to back the federalist Belgian prime minister.

On top of this, Mr Verhofstadt's standing has taken a knock following his party's bashing in the European elections on Sunday.

The Belgian liberals were knocked into third place after the conservatives and the extreme right-wing party, the Vlaams Blok.

Fischler and Solana

Another name which supposedly circulated at the EU foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (14 June) is that of Franz Fischler, the current Austrian Commissioner for agriculture.

Meanwhile, Madrid is pushing for Javier Solana, the current EU high representative for foreign policy, to take over the Brussels top job.

But Mr Solana is also in the running for EU foreign minister - a new post envisaged in the draft EU Constitution.

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