EU’s likely next leader wants to conserve Europe’s identity

Press point by EPP group leader Manfred WEBER on the situation in Hungary

The man most likely to become the EU’s next leader, who identifies as a Christian Democrat, has further strengthened his claim to the throne.

Manfred Weber, a Germany MEP and leader of the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament, today won the support of the broader EPP to become its candidate for the European Commission presidency.

Weber was up against former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb in a head-to-head. He romped to victory with a massive 79 per cent of the 619 votes cast.

On his personal website, Weber has set out what he wants for “a better Europe” if he does become Commission president. Among his priorities, he stresses the importance of European values.

“A better Europe sticks to its identity,” his website says. “Europe is more than just a market – Europe is a union of values. We will defend these values in Europe and throughout the world. This is why, for example, Turkey cannot be a Member of the European Union.”

Weber’s website also stresses a need for stronger border controls. “We want 10,000 additional Frontex officers to control our external borders; we will connect all our existing databases to fight against criminals and we will return illegal migrants to their home countries,” it says.

He recently tweeted more in this vein, saying: “Europe is under attack from the outside and the inside. Our enemies want to see us weak and divided. We need to reconnect with citizens and take their fears and concerns seriously.”

Other priorities he has listed include creating jobs, digital innovation, and making the EU more democratic and accountable.

In his personal description, Weber says that his Christian Democratic values have guided his politics from an early age, and that he is active in several Catholic lay organisations. He is vice-chairman of Bavaria’s CSU party, which governs Germany in coalition with chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. The two parties have a pact not to contest each other’s territories.

The EPP is the biggest party in the European Parliament, and is likely to win the most seats again in the parliamentary election in May 2019. If it does, and if the EU retains the process for selecting a Commission president that it introduced last time around, in 2014, Weber will become president.

It is not yet known whether this process, called the Spitzenkandidaten process, will be used again, however. Some people, and the Parliament itself, say it made the selection of the Commission president, and therefore the EU itself, more democratic. But some leaders of EU national governments, which form another EU institution called the European Council, want more sway over the Commission presidency.

Words: Craig Nicholson
Photo: EP / Fred Marvaux

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