Finns Stubb and Katainen leave door open to EU Commission top job

Aleksander Stubb (R) and Jyrki Katainen (L) of Finnish National Coalition Party check election results on a mobile device in Helsinki, Finland, on 17 April 2011. [Pekka Sipola/EPA]

Former Finnish prime ministers Alexander Stubb and Jyrki Katainen left open the possibility on Saturday (9 June) that they would run to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the EU executive’s president next year.

Both politicians have been tipped as possible candidates for their European People’s Party (EPP), currently the biggest group in the European parliament.

“This is under consideration… I will think it through, see what else could be done in life, and discuss it with my family,” Katainen, 46, currently EU Commission vice president, told Reuters on the sidelines of a gathering of his Finnish party, the center-right NCP.

Asked during the same event whether he would like to succeed Juncker, Stubb, 50, said he would not challenge Katainen for the candidacy.

“Depending on what Jyrki decides, I will or I will not start thinking about it … We are of course good friends and discuss these things with each other,” Stubb, who is vice president at the European Investment Bank, told reporters.

“I hope EPP succeeds in the election … but there are many factors in appointments for big positions: party background, the CV, age, sex and country,” he added.

The EPP is due to nominate its top candidate for the job in Helsinki in November.

Stubb has acknowledged previously that he was seeking nomination as Finland’s EU commissioner in 2014 when Katainen, who was prime minister at the time, surprisingly quit the government in order to take the Commission job himself.

Katainen joins Commission, Stubb assumes PM role

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen formally stepped down from office yesterday (16 June). He is expected to take the post of European Commissioner from 1 July, when Finnish Commissioner Olli Rehn will take up his MEP seat. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb was designated to replace Katainen as Prime Minister.

Stubb — a multilingual social media-savvy sportsman — went on to lead the Finnish government and was one of the country’s most popular politicians before he was ousted from the helm of the NCP party in 2016, partly due to his outspoken style.

Under the European Union’s ‘Spitzenkandidat’ system, the top candidate from the pan-EU party that wins elections to the European Parliament next May should be appointed as president of the Commission, the EU’s executive body.

European Union leaders, however, will ultimately have the last say on who becomes Juncker’s successor for a five-year term.

Slovakia’s EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, a member of center-left PES group, earlier this week declared his candidacy for the job.

EU energy chief eyes Commission top job

Slovakia’s member of the European Commission declared his candidacy on Monday (4 June) to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the EU executive’s president, promising to try to ease tensions between western states and newer members from the ex-communist east.

Other EPP members mentioned as potential candidates to succeed Juncker include Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund.

Barnier for President, says Brussels-bubble

Michel Barnier is the top candidate to win the European Commission presidency after next May’s European elections, as a reward for delivering Brexit. At least, that is what the Brussels-bubble thinks, according to a survey published on Thursday (12 April).


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