Shortly before a Brussels meeting of Europe’s leaders, the top candidate of the centre-right, Manfred Weber, appears ready for a compromise.
As the lead candidate for the European People’s Party (EPP), Weber said on Tuesday at a press conference in the European Parliament that the EPP was ready to make all necessary compromises over the appointment of the EU’s top job.
The EPP, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left agreed to, in principle, retain the lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, process and puts the European Parliament in the driver’s seat when it comes to selecting who will occupy Europe’s top jobs.
Weber believes that he is the definition of a Spitzenkandidat for the EPP after being elected by the EPP conference in Helsinki and being the voice of the EPP throughout the campaign.
“For a democratic process you need a candidate and a programme, the conference of presidents in the EP has confirmed the Spitzenkandidat process,” added Weber.
Also on the list of potential successors to current Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is Vice President of the EU executive Frans Timmermans from the Party of the European Socialists (PES) and ALDE’s EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
“We need a strategic open and transparent discussion where to go and how to do that,” said S&D president, Udo Bullmann, who Reiterated his support for the party’s Spitzenkandidat. “We will fight for Timmermans and day-by-day I see a growing majority in the European Council”.
According to Bullman, an overwhelming majority support the Spitzenkandidat process even if ALDE says that the procedure is not fully fleshed out if transnational lists are part of the process.
“We are to conversations with all the democratic and pro-European forces,” said Bullman, but “the EPP has to define what line to follow. If it is the EPP of (Viktor) Orbán or (Sebastian) Kurz, or if it will be the Europe of (Robert) Schuman, who invested his life to build the EU?”.
The Greens’ top candidate, Ska Keller, made statements that showed her support for the lead candidate procedure. “It doesn’t solve all problems in the world, but it is a big step towards a more democratic process, Keller said before suggesting that Vestager was treated by the organisers of the debate as a Spitzenkandidat as she was asked questions pertaining to what she will do is she became the Commission president.
Keller also shed light on her view of the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, who has also been floated as a potential successor to Juncker. “Spitzenkandidaten is not for anyone that goes around and makes speeches, however nice they might be,” she said before adding that more needs to be done to have gender balance in the EU, not only to the Commission but for other top posts, including the European Central Bank.