Race for the EU's top post

By the end of June the EU leaders must reach an agreement on whom they want as the next EU Commission president. While Merkel supports EPP lead candidate Manfred Weber, Macron favours Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager or Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Commentators assess the candidates' chances and the motives of those who make the final decision.

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Denik (CZ) /

Margrethe Vestager is the ideal candidate

Former Danish foreign minister and current EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is the most suitable candidate for the job, Denik contends:

“She took part in the election campaign as a 'lead candidate'. The Liberals have emerged considerably strengthened from the elections. As a Dane she has a penchant for environmental policy, so she would have no problem accepting the Greens as a new member of Europe's big four. Her nomination could be a compromise in the tug of war between the Parliament and the Council, so that the two sides can bury the axe before the next European elections. The final advantage: An elegant woman would be the EU leader for old men. The union would no doubt be delighted about that.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Even the name is repugnant

Mariann Öry, Magyar Hírlap's foreign desk editor, has her suspicions about why Macron wants to prevent Manfred Weber from becoming Commission president:

“Emmanuel Macron certainly won't contribute to the efforts to maintain the illusion that the lead candidate system is still alive. The French president despises the whole thing, even the name - 'spitzenkandidat' [in French too] - is German. This procedure that was pushed through by the European Parliament against the wishes of the leaders of the member states is necessarily advantageous for the big party groups. But from Paris's point of view it's not a democracy but a 'partocracy'. And that's annoying for Paris because it's the Germans rather than the French who dominate in both the EPP and the Socialist parliamentary group.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Wanted: charismatic leader

The search for a successor to Juncker must not take too long, Handelsblatt warns:

“The EU is under a huge amount of pressure: it must stand up to the world powers the US and China, deal with climate change and steel itself for future waves of migration, to name just a few of the challenges it faces. To do all this it needs capable leaders. At the EU summit on June 22 it should at least be determined who Jean-Claude Juncker's successor will be. At the same time, however, the EU heads of state and government must not give in to the temptation to nominate a weak Commission president who dances to their tune. The EU needs a charismatic person at its helm who can meet the leaders of China and the US on an equal footing and who has what it takes to convince the people of Europe.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Good prospects for Barnier

The model of the lead candidate has had its day, writes political scientist Cornelia Woll in Le Monde:

“The lead candidate's lack of legitimacy and opposition from the states risk tilting the balance in favour of someone on whom it would be easier to agree - for example Michel Barnier. ... With the Brexit negotiations he became the face of a united Europe. He has the firm support of the French president, and his chances are almost as good as those of the official lead candidates. Then again, even more surprising names are also conceivable, for example Christine Lagarde or Angela Merkel, who announced the end of her chancellorship in 2018.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

Macron and the new force in the centre

Radio Europa Liberă explains how Macron could stop EPP lead candidate Weber from becoming Juncker's successor:

“The top dogs in the EU have already taken the first steps in the contest for the highest posts in the EU institutions. The task is all the more pressing given that the results of the European elections will make it difficult to establish a balance of power within what looks to be a deeply fragmented Parliament. At the side of the liberal Macron a new centrist force has emerged which, with 109 seats, will be the third-strongest force in Parliament. Already on Monday Macron met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Europe's most prominent Socialist leader, to discuss a possible alliance. Together they could prevent the EPP's leading candidate from taking the top job in the EU Commission.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Weber's candidacy not optimal

Gazeta Wyborcza explains why Manfred Weber could be left empty-handed:

“If Merkel insists on Weber a long dispute between Berlin and Paris will begin in the EU. ... In addition, it's possible that at the summit the decision will be made that at least one of the key posts - the presidency of the Commission or of the European Council - should go to a woman. The balance between East and West will also play a role in determining the EU leadership. In the discussion about Juncker's successor the Danish EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the French chief negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier and the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, former EU commissioner and Chief Executive of the World Bank, are all in the running.”

hvg (HU) /

Fidesz is a red flag for Alde

It won't be all that easy for Weber to get the support he needs from the liberal group in the EU Parliament, writes hvg:

“As long as the EPP doesn't expel the Hungarian ruling Fidesz party there will be no cooperation with Alde, according to Pascal Chafin, number two on the list of Macron's party La République en Marche. ... At first it's hard to understand just what kind of cooperation he's talking about. But if you think a step further it's clear that while the EPP is still the strongest group in the EU Parliament, it lost seven percentage points in comparison to 2014. So if Weber wants to be Commission president he'll need backers. His most obvious ally is the liberal group Alde, to which Macron's party belongs and which has won a record 109 seats in the EU Parliament.”