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Manfred Weber at CSU party conference in 2017
Image: picture-alliance/S. Simon

Bavarian conservative aims to lead European Commission

September 5, 2018

Manfred Weber, head of the conservatives in the European Parliament, announced his intention to lead the European Commission. Brussels' Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is also thought to be a leading contender.


Manfred Weber of Germany's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) said on Wednesday that he hopes to become the next president of the European Commission.

The 46-year-old leads the European Parliament's center-right group, the European People's Party (EPP), and would be in with a strong chance of winning the presidency if he can secure their endorsement at the upcoming party congress in November.

Road to the presidency

  • Incumbent European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to step down shortly after European Parliament elections in May 2019.
  • The EPP, currently the most powerful group in the EU Parliament, is due to unveil its preferred candidate by as soon as November, when it holds a party congress in Helsinki.
  • As EPP head, Weber will likely be considered one of the favorites. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also given Weber her backing, according to reports.
  • The CSU lawmaker is, however, still likely to face stern competition. Brussels' Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is reportedly also interested in leading the Commission, as is former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb.
  • After the European elections, each European party will present its candidate. The EU's heads of state will then appoint their preferred choice with the approval of the European Parliament.

Read more: European Commission warns of 'fake news,' meddling in 2019 European elections

Chances hinge on EPP election performance: The EPP is expected to come out ahead in the upcoming European elections, giving its candidate for the Commission presidency a strong chance of winning the approval of the EU heads of state. But the weaker parliamentary groups on the left could pull together to push through a joint candidate of their own.

What does the Commission president do? The president of the European Commission is tasked with determining the EU executive's policy agenda. Legislation is drafted and then voted on and adopted by the European Parliament. The Commission president also represents the EU and major international summits, such as the G7 and G20.

A German at the EU helm: With several top European roles up for grabs next year, it was always expected that a German — and Merkel ally — would be vying for at least one top job. According to reports, Berlin initially wanted to see one of its own take over from Mario Draghi as head of the European Central Bank, before Merkel made clear she preferred having an ally at the helm of the EU executive. The last German to lead the Commission was Walter Hallstein from 1958 to 1967.

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dm/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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