Manfred Weber: EU response to Venezuela ′a tragedy′ | News | DW | 29.01.2019
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Manfred Weber: EU response to Venezuela 'a tragedy'

Manfred Weber is the favorite to become the next president of the European Commission. The German conservative told DW about his disappointment with the bloc's response to the Venezuelan political crisis.

The head of the biggest political grouping in the European Parliament on Tuesday slammed the European Union's slow response to Venezuela's power struggle in an interview with DW.

"It really was a tragedy to see that Europe was not able to act in a quick and appropriate manner," Manfred Weber said.

Weber, who is favored to take over at the European Commission after elections in May, said the bloc needed to revamp the way it voted on foreign policy positions.

Currently, all member states have to unanimously agree on a position for the EU to adopt it. The bloc should change to a majority vote system, Weber said.

"Otherwise we will always be weak and not capable to deliver," he said.

Scattered EU response

The EU made no joint declaration on behalf of its 28 member states to indicate support for either President Nicolas Maduro or opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Instead, it released a statement condemning violence and calling for free elections to be announced "over the next days."

Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom have, however, said they would be ready to recognize Guaido as interim president unless Maduro agreed to hold free elections by February 3.

Read more: Maas: Germany backs Guaido

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks to media (Imago/Agencia EFE/M. Gutiérrez)

Opposition leader Juan Guaido declaration split the international community.

Weber poised to lead Commission

Veteran German politician Manfred Weber was nominated last November as the European People's Party's (EPP) candidate for European Commission President.

The EPP is the largest political group in the European Commission and is predicted to win the most seats in elections scheduled for May. As lead candidate, Weber is favored to take over as EC president from Jean-Claude Juncker.

This means changes to bloc decision-making on foreign policy could be on the cards.

The current unanimity system slowed down a combined EU response to Maduro's re-election in 2018 amid divisions over whether to pursue diplomacy or impose sanctions.

The elections were widely criticized as being unfair, but sanctions were only imposed on Maduro and his closest officials over a month after the election date. 

"We as Europeans have a common value base," Weber told DW. "We have to show on a global level that we are willing to defend these principles, also with our friends for example in South America."

Read more: The EU in 2019: Challenges and crises await

Venezuela explained

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido stunned the international community last week by declaring himself president.

The announcement came two weeks after President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, a move that caused tens of thousands to take to the streets of Caracas in protest.

The US, Canada and many Latin American countries announced they would recognize the opposition leader as the new head of state. Russia, China, and Turkey among other countries continue to back Maduro, saying external interference in the country’s politics is against international law.

Read more: Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro, Juan Guaido vie for military control