EU Commission: Weber the right man for the job?

CSU European politician Manfred Weber has announced that he will run for the post of EU Commission president after the European elections in 2019. The EPP will decide on November 8 whether it will name Weber, its current parliamentary group leader, as lead candidate. Europe's media are already weighing up the pros and cons of Weber becoming EU Commission President.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A pragmatic bridge builder

A German EU Commission President Weber would be good for Europe for several reasons, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:

“First, he would be able to convince the distrustful Germans better than any foreign president when it comes to the reform plans for a post-Brexit EU under a Franco-German leadership that have been gathering dust in drawers in Brussels. Second, Weber as a politician and person possesses many skills that will no doubt make him a successful commission president: experience and top connections in Brussels' engine rooms, a solid set of internal values, an open and modest manner and the absolutely crucial ability to be pragmatic and make compromises. As a representative of a younger generation he would give the EU headquarters in Brussels an open, friendly face.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Weber paving the way for a shift to the right?

El Periódico de Catalunya worries about Weber's political roots:

“The candidacy of the Bavarian politician sends a disquieting message because he belongs to the Bavarian party that is tending more and more to populism. The EPP sees itself as the European political family of the centre right, but it takes in decidedly right-wing and even far-right groups. This is the case with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz-MPSZ party and ex-Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša's party Slovenska demokratska stranka (SDS).”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Illiberals being shown too much tolerance

Writing in La Repubblica, political scientist Yascha Mounk accuses Weber of lacking principles:

“The EU will tolerate profoundly illiberal and even undemocratic states and thus undermine its own legitimacy. German citizens may go along with sharing sovereignty with the French for the sake of wielding more clout internationally. But it will be difficult to convince them that they should also do this with a Hungarian dictator. If Weber and Merkel are willing to give up their principles for a majority in the European Parliament which is not all that important, how can we be so sure that they won't join forces with the nationalists of the AfD if that's the price for maintaining their power in Berlin?”

De Standaard (BE) /

Merkel's tactical manoeuvring

Chancellor Merkel is pursuing several goals with Weber's candidacy, De Standaard explains:

“Merkel above all wants the Commission to look stronger and more united to those outside it. This is also a sign that Germany wants to assume its responsibility. But at the same time it's a tactic at preventing the European People's Party, the cupola of the Christian democratic and conservative parties, from falling apart due to the tensions over migration policy. Because that would threaten its dominant position in the European force field. Weber has also made sure that he has the support of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is diametrically opposed to Merkel in this respect. Power politics sometimes makes it necessary to reconcile water and fire.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Populists could block Weber's path

The potential success of the populist parties could endanger the lead candidate process, writes political analyst Radu Carp in his blog with Adevărul:

“According to surveys populist parties could gain as many as 150 seats in the new EU Parliament. The gap between them and the EPP would thus be reduced. If the populists manage to take another 25 seats from the big parties in all the EU member states the balance of power would be in their favour. Because Merkel is aware of this scenario she is relying on a high-profile candidate like Manfred Weber. But what happens if the populist parties propose a joint candidate and cite the lead candidate process? ... Then France and Germany would probably have to renounce the process and a technocrat who enjoys the support of all the parliamentary groups could secure the post.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Lead candidate process in jeopardy

This could be the end for the lead candidate process, writes Jutarnji list:

“It's not surprising that the European People's Party is in favour of keeping the lead candidate principle, because this gives it the most influence in the EU institutions. But it's unclear whether this principle can survive this time because more and more politicians are against it. German chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't seem too keen on its either, although she has formally accepted the process. ... But she too says that the process should be linked to the idea of transnational lists in the EU elections, as France's President Macron proposed. ... In the run-up to the EU elections many questions will be raised, but this time it's not certain that the lead candidate process will survive.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Weber as good as president

As the grey eminence of the EPP, Weber is already halfway to securing the top post, 24 Chasa believes:

“The fact that the EPP is still up and running is to a large extent Weber's doing. Without his calm but effective diplomacy the Christian Democrats would have fallen out with the national-conservative Hungarians and the rather leftist Belgians long ago. Even the Social Democrats admit that not a single regulation can be passed in the EU Parliament without Weber's backing. It's no coincidence that he's a member of the so-called G5 club of the most influential EU politicians. Apart from him, the only other members are Juncker, his deputy Timmermans, the former parliamentary president Martin Schulz and the head of the Social Democratic group in the EU Parliament Gianni Pittella. The fact that both the Social Democrats and the national-conservatives hold Weber in high regard boosts his chances of securing the top post in the EU Commission.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Berlin has its people everywhere

Should CSU politician Manfred Weber become the leading candidate of the EPP Germany will wield even more power in the EU than it already does, warns Naftemporiki:

“What's for sure is that Berlin will do all it can to ensure that its candidacy is successful. ... Apart from Berlin's Europe policy, which is not seen as appropriate for the south of Europe, Germany already exercises considerable influence through posts that are in German hands: Werner Hoyer is President of the European Investment Bank, Klaus Regling is in charge of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and Elke König of the Single Resolution Mechanism. What consequences will this gathering of all the posts [in German hands] have for the EU and its citizens?”

Financial Times (GB) /

Weidmann not a good choice for ECB chief

The signals from Germany should come as a relief, the Financial Times finds:

“There is nothing to say a German cannot run the ECB. But Mr Weidmann has been a persistent opponent of Mr Draghi's far-reaching measures to do, in his own words, 'whatever it takes' to save the euro. Wrongly, Mr Weidmann objected both to Mr Draghi's proposal to stabilise markets by buying the sovereign bonds of troubled countries and to the ECB's subsequent programme of quantitative easing. The ECB must represent the whole Eurozone, not become a cipher for the particular - and frequently outlying - views of the Bundesbank.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Merkel playing a risky game

The German government should not back down on presenting the excellent candidate Jens Weidmann as successor to ECB chief Draghi, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung warns:

“A German EU Commission president would be more 'low-maintenance', seeing as Berlin would have more influence over him than over the president of the ECB, who is independent. But precisely in crisis situations monetary policy is a game changer because it can react far quicker than financial policy. Certainly, the recent indiscretions don't help Weidmann's candidacy. In the end Germany could even come out empty-handed. In that case Merkel herself would have to acknowledge her own failings. But it's not yet too late to change course. What was it Merkel said at the height of the crisis? 'The euro is our fate.' The chancellor should know just who she has with Weidmann. With him, monetary policy would be in good hands.”

Sega (BG) /

Berlin lacks convincing candidates

Blogger Adelina Marini takes a look in Sega at the candidates being discussed in Germany for the post of EU Commission President:

“Manfred Weber's sympathetic stance towards anti-liberal heads of government and the fact that he has made migration the main topic lead one to suspect that the breach of contract proceedings against Poland could be dropped, as well as the sanctions against Hungary and perhaps even EU monitoring in Bulgaria and Romania. ... It looks like Weber wants to practice realpolitik in Brussels and export Germany's domestic problems to Brussels. ... [Defence Minister] Ursula von der Leyen and [Economics Minister] Peter Altmaier, the two other candidates, are weak, but they show that Merkel wants one of her close confidantes to be in charge of the EU.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

ECB chief post would be a windfall for Finland

Finland must not miss the chance of an ECB chief post, Kauppalehti stresses:

According to Bloomberg the former chief of the Finnish central bank, Erkki Liikanen, is being tipped as ECB boss Mario Draghi's successor. ... Olli Rehn, the current head of the Finnish central bank, is in fifth place. ... Up to now Jens Weidmann, president of the German Bundesbank, had held the pole position. ... Of course it's flattering for Finland that not one but two Finns are at the top of the list. The final decision may however depend on the Finnish parliamentary elections [next April]. The Social Democrats could present different candidates for the top EU posts than the National Coalition Party or the Centre Party. ... The post of ECB president would be such a windfall for Finland that it should not be put at risk for the sake of party tactics.”