With a series of three simultaneous tweets in English, French, and his native German, the head of the European People’s Party (EPP) deputies in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, announced that he will lead the centre-right’s lead candidate in the upcoming European Commission set for May of next year.
“Europe is at a turning point. The European Elections of 2019 will decide the future of the EU,” Weber said in his opening. “Today is about the self-assertion of Europe and the defence of our values because we are being challenged both internally and externally. It’s about the survival of our European way of life…“We cannot go on as we are now in the EU. I will help bring Europe back to the people and re-establish the bond between citizens and the European Union. I want to kick-start a new chapter in the EU,” adds the EPP parliamentary president.
Weber’s declaration suggests he feels confident after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would back, but not formally endorse his candidacy. The EPP will have to decide in November on whether Weber is their preferred candidate, which appears to be likely for the time being as no other politician from the centre-right EPP has so far declared their intention to run for the group’s nomination.
Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, have also been widely rumoured as potential candidates, though neither have publicly declared their intention to throw their hats into the selection process.
Though Weber appears to be the leading candidate to take over for current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however, several key EU leaders have refused to give their unconditional backing to the favoured candidate system, known as Spitzenkandidat. First established in 2014 during the selection process that saw Juncker emerge as the head of the EU, the Spitzenkandidat process awards the European Commission presidency to the party that wins the most seats in the European Parliament election.
A number of European politicians who are opposed to the selection process say the EU treaties clearly state that they are responsible for nominating the next Commission president and cannot be legally bound to choose from a group of lead candidates.
First established in 2014 during the selection process that saw Juncker emerge as the head of the EU, the Spitzenkandidat process awards the European Commission presidency to the party that wins the most seats in the European parliamentary elections.
That leaves Weber, a 46-year-old veteran German politician, far from being a shoe-in for the EU’s top job particularly after French President Emmanuel Macron‘s party, La République En Marche, declared that it would not support a European political group that backs the Spitzenkandidat process.