Europe’s conservatives, the European Peoples Party, have nominated their parliamentary leader – Manfred Weber – to be the next President of the European Commission, beating Finnish Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb.
The EPP grouping – which is currently the largest in Parliament – seek to keep control of the EU’s principal position, which is currently held by Jean-Claude Junker.
Weber is little known and has a lack of prior experience as a former head of state or government. Nonetheless, it is likely that the little-known Weber will stand against the Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans, the former Dutch foreign minister who remains unchallenged for the nomination of Europe’s second-biggest political entity – the Party of European Socialists.
— Darren McCaffrey (@DarrenEuronews) November 8, 2018
Weber has been leader of the EPP since 2014 and an MEP since 2004. Now he seeks to rise the ranks further and fulfil one of the most prestigious roles on the continent.
At the EPP conference in Helsinki, Weber stressed the importance of European values: “I stand here not only to ask for your support as a candidate, but I stand here to ask you for a mandate to change Europe!”
In a controversial moment, Weber drew attention to himself at the event; standing up and posing for photos, whilst Michel Barnier delivered his speech to the EPP members. In an awkward episode of European disunity, the EU’s chief negotiator attempted to sell the bloc’s purpose to European leaders, raising awareness of the EU’s existential threats, namely Brexit, while EPP members dismissively chatted amongst themselves. Barnier, who has dominated headlines throughout the Brexit process, was forced to sell the European Union to his counterparts in somewhat of a graveyard shift.
The incident highlighted the dismissiveness of European leaders who seem unwilling to recognise the political milestone that Brexit is. Additionally, the selection process has underlined the complexity of continental bureaucracy and is in danger of creating an institutional rift between the various factions; the European Council telling the Parliament that it cannot legally nominate a Commission president.
The election for the European Commission position will take place in May 2019.