Spitzenkandidaten: A Bavarian on the Commission throne?

Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament Manfred Weber listens to a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 18 April 2018. [EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER]

Only a few contributions from the ranks of the Bavarian CSU in recent months suggested their competence on European issues. Now one of them is aiming for the highest post Brussels has to offer. EURACTIV Germany reports.

On Wednesday (5 September), Manfred Weber, the CSU deputy chairman, will most likely announce his candidacy for the post of the leading candidate of the conservative EPP. The support of Chancellor Angela Merkel seems as certain to him as that of his own CSU party. That alone speaks volumes about Weber’s ability to connect divided camps.

Weber comes from the district of Landshut in Lower Bavaria – where Bavaria is still really Bavarian. A region that cares for its customs and does not care too much about the big wide world.

There live the people who Söder, Seehofer & Co. want to lure to the ballot boxes with a Maßkrug [Bavarian beer mug] and pithy comments about the “asylum tourism” to Germany. A profile of politicians that is not necessarily associated with the job currently held by the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker.

But Weber is different than Söder and Seehofer. He is somehow both: Bavarian and European. He says that more and more politics is taking place at the EU level and that regional interests must therefore be represented there. He wants to give the common legislation a “Bavarian handwriting” and demands a “positive European policy” from his party.

Weber to announce candidacy focusing on migration

Blessed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and backed by big national delegations, Germany’s CSU heavyweight Manfred Weber is expected to soon confirm his candidacy for the post of the new European Commission president, with migration emerging as the top issue on his agenda.

Weber represents a conservative position in the CSU’s current matter of heart – the refugee issue. On the one hand, he emphasises that involvement of the Hungarian hardliner Victor Orbán is necessary to resolve the issue, but at the same time clearly advocates a European solution.

With this profile, Weber is somehow open and connected in all directions. He seems to be daring to find compromises between the camps on the EU political scene. As a longtime member of the European Parliament, he brings with him the necessary credibility at a time when the EU’s democratic deficit is openly criticised.

He comes across not as a bureaucrat from a national government enterprise, but as a democrat with experience in European affairs.

Merkel chooses Weber as candidate for EU top job

Angela Merkel has given her backing to fellow German conservative Manfred Weber’s bid to front the centre-right’s campaign in next year’s European Parliament elections, several German newspapers reported on Thursday (30 August).

If he prevails against competitors such as the current Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier and is proclaimed the top candidate in Helsinki at the end of the year, he will stand a good chance of capturing the executive chair of the Commission.

The European Parliament has already made clear that it will not accept a candidate in this capacity who has not been a leading candidate for the EU election. It is likely that the EPP will be the strongest force in the elections and can therefore claim the post for its top candidate.

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