The European People’s Party (EPP) has chosen the German Manfred Weber, leader of the group in the European Parliament, as its ‘Spitzenkandidat’, the leader to face upcoming elections in May and who could be the next president of the European Commission.
The result came as little surprise to observers. Weber (46) who also aspires to take control of the Christian Social Union (CSU) at home in Bavaria, clearly defeated his only rival, the Finn Alex Stubb, with almost 80% of the votes.
He also hopes to replace his EPP colleague Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President following the May European elections.
The EPP is the largest group in the European Parliament, with the second-largest bloc, the Socialists & Democrats, having this week chosen current European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans and their lead candidate for the Commission presidency.
Weber, who is relatively unknown in Germany, where has never been elected to office, is noted for being an expert on EU institutions, having served as an MEP since 2004.
In his speech to the party plenary, Weber praised the “European way of life”, which he said was about “…democracy, the rule of law, the market economy, the equal treatment of men and women….”. He also stressed Europe’s Christian traditions and the need for Europe to “regain control of our borders”.
He criticised populists, many of whom belonging to his EPP group, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban who “have an interest in destroying Europe”.
In May, voters across the EU’s 27 countries will elect 705 members of the Parliament. All of the EU’s top posts, including the presidencies of the Commission, Council and Parliament, will be open next year.