Centre-right candidates asked to step forward

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The European People's Party (EPP), Europe's largest political family, opened candidacies on Thursday (13 February) for top figures to lead its EU election campaign, which starts in three weeks’ time at a congress in Dublin.

The centre-right EPP holds its ‘electoral congress’ on 6-7 March, in Dublin, as a launch event for their campaign towards the European Parliament elections on 22-25 May across EU member states.

At the congress, the party’s delegates (representing national member parties) will adopt a common programme or ‘Manifesto’ used in national campaigns for the European Parliament seats.

But the main point on the agenda is the nomination of a frontrunner to lead the European campaign: the centre-right is still looking for a single candidate to run for the seat of EU Commission president.

The submission of candidacies officially opened on Thursday (13 February). Candidates need an endorsement from their national party as well as two other member parties of the EPP political family. The campaign closes for submissions on 5 March, one day before the electoral congress.

Three potential candidates

The EPP’s president, Joseph Daul, told EurActiv Czech in an interview that the potential frontrunners include: former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, French EU Commissioner Michel Barnier and former Latvian premier Valdis Dombrovskis.

German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her support to nominate Juncker as single candidate last week. "It is no secret that I have a lot of sympathy for Jean-Claude Juncker," she told a news conference recently.

Although Jyrki Katainen was amongst the top candidates, one of his closest aides told EurActiv earlier this month that the Finnish prime minister would not run.

Enda Kenny, whose Fine Gael party hosts the electoral congress, was deemed a good candidate for the top spot by many, but dismissed rumours that he would leave his prime minister post to run for the presidency of the EU executive.

Other EPP names circulating for future top job holders are Christine Lagarde and Dalia Grybauskaitė but so far, they have not expressed any interest in filing their candidacy to lead the campaign.

Dublin’s nominee to become president?

The EPP is the last major political family to select its frontrunner for the European elections.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, was unopposed in his bid to lead the pan-European socialist campaign. The European Greens selected two MEPs - José Bové and Ska Keller - in an online primary process, and the president of the ALDE group, Guy Verhofstadt, will lead the liberals’ campaign.

The party that wins most seats in the EU elections in May will put its single candidate front and centre to be nominated as Commission president.

The EPP is the largest political family in Europe, who holds both the European Commission presidency and European Council presidency, as well as 13 European commissioner posts.

Opinion polls suggest the EPP will hold its position as the European Parliament’s biggest political party, and so the single candidate selected at Dublin’s congress will be in pole position to take on the next presidency of the European Commission.

But some EU pundits – including prominent figures within the EPP such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy – have expressed their doubts over the parties’ plan to nominate single candidates, casting a shadow over the selection process for the next EU top job holders.

>>All background info: LinksDossier ‘The EU top jobs: Who's next?’

Timeline: 
  • 21-23 Febr.: European Greens electoral congress, adopting the common manifesto
  • 28 Febr.-1 Mar.: Socialist party PES congress in Rome
  • 6-7 Mar.: Centre-right EPP congress in Dublin
  • 22-25 May: Elections for European Parliament
  • 27 May: Informal European Council meeting to discuss election results and negotiation process
  • 26-27 June: Nomination of Commission president at the European Council summit.
  • 14-17 July: Parliament votes on European Council’s nomination of Commission president in its plenary session.
  • Summer: New president nominates his Commissioners team, scrutinised in individual hearings before Parliament in September.
  • 1 Nov.: Target date for new Commission to take office.

(See full timeline in our LinksDossier)

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