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Germany's Weber picked as lead candidate to head European Commission

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Germany's Weber picked as lead candidate to head European Commission
Manfred Weber (CSU) wants to head the European Commission. Photo: DPA
13:12 CET+01:00
The European People’s Party (EPP) has elected the German politician, Manfred Weber, as their candidate for the new EU Commission President in 2019.

The 46-year-old scored around 79 percent of the delegates' votes and was therefore nominated for the EU top office in Brussels. He will be the opponent of Social Democrat Frans Timmermans, who is also vying to become head of the commission.

According to official results from the vote at the party's conference in Helsinki, Weber won the backing of 79.2 percent of delegates, easily beating former Finnish premier Alexander Stubb's 20 percent.

In his application speech, Weber, currently parliamentary party leader of the EPP in the European Parliament, presented himself as a moderate able to overcome divisions in the grouping, which has lost ground to populists against the backdrop of the European migration crisis.

"I dream of a Europe that does not depend on anyone and where we work harder to create better living conditions for all Europeans," Weber said.

His major themes were the protection of external borders and European values, but also the dream that Europeans would be the first to find a cure for cancer. "Every human being is important to us at the EPP," Weber said.

Overcoming divisions

The post of commission president - held by an EPP candidate since 2004 - is a key prize in the horse-trading of top jobs that will follow EU elections on May 26th next year.

Also in the mix are plum spots to lead the European Council -- which represents national governments -- the European Parliament, the European Central Bank, and the bloc's new foreign policy chief.

The EPP is a conservative and Christian-Democratic pan-European party. It has been the largest party in the European Parliament since 1999.

Whether Weber will actually become President of the EU Commission depends on two factors: He would have to achieve a good result for the EPP in the European elections at the end of May 2019, so that it would continue to be the largest parliamentary group in the European Parliament.

Secondly, he needs the backing of the EU heads of state and government, who have the right to nominate the head of the Commission.

The office is considered the most important in the EU as it can propose legislation, negotiate contracts and monitor compliance with EU law. The giant authority employs 32,000 people.

The first and only German head of the Commission was Walter Hallstein in the 1960s, but then for the much smaller and differently organized European Community.

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