Katainen prepares for Commission, eyes Barroso’s job

Jyrki Katainen. Finland, 2014. [EPP/Flickr]

Olli Rehn, the Commission Vice President for Economic and Monetary Affairs, will take up his MEP seat and is likely to be replaced by Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen from 1 July. Katainen, whose party NCP is EPP-affiliated, makes no secret that he wants to be the next Commission President.

According to information obtained by EURACTIV, Olli Rehn, who was elected as MEP by his liberal-affiliated Centre party, has decided to take his seat as MEP.

This means that Commission President José Manuel Barroso will have to invite the Finnish government to send another Finn as member of the College of Commissioners, in which all 28 EU member countries are represented.

At the 27 May summit, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, from the centre-right National Coalition Party, said that he was prepared to re-locate to Brussels in early July, if he is appointed to succeed Rehn as Commissioner.

“I’m ready to start on 1 July, if possible,” Katainen told Finnish reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Karainen makes no secret he is interested in a top EU job, ideally that of Commission President.  Last April, he said he would resign this summer after three years in office, and was available for EU or international roles [read more].

In view of the opposition building among EU heads of state and government against Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP Spitzenkandidat at the European elections [read more], it should not be excluded that another EPP-affiliated politician will get the job.

However, Katainen is far from being the only possible compromise candidate. In EP circles, the name of former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis is also frequently mentioned, EURACTIV was told.

“It is time for new faces,” an EPP source told EURACTIV, signalling that Juncker was no longer a viable option.  

he European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.

The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This will make the European elections a de facto race for commission president, politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.

But others have argued that the European parties’ push for their own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.

The EU summit held on 27 May, two days after the European elections, gave a mandate to Van Rompuy to start consultations in view of electing a new Commission President, leaving the door open to other options, rather than nominating the winning centre-right candidate in the EU elections, Jean-Claude Juncker [read more]. 

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