May 23, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – This weekend’s European Parliament election will usher in a major reshuffle of top jobs in EU institutions.
These include presidents of the three political bodies — the executive European Commission (currently Jean-Claude Juncker), the Council of national leaders (Donald Tusk) and the European Parliament (Antonio Tajani) — plus the European Central Bank (Mario Draghi) and the EU’s foreign policy chief (Federica Mogherini).
National leaders meet on Tuesday to haggle and prepare to bargain with EU lawmakers (MEPs). Any deals must balance the interests of: states and Parliament; key states; big countries and small; Europe’s north, south, east and west; men and women; and pan-EU political parties, right, left and center.
Who gets what is anyone’s guess at this stage but these are some of the names in the mix for the Brussels political posts:
MANFRED WEBER – German, center-right EPP, 46, MEP.
Leading EPP election campaign to be Commission president. A strong EPP result would help him but centrist French President Emmanuel Macron and others reject a parliamentary push to bind leaders into choosing an MEP “Spitzenkandidat” for the job. Many dismiss Weber for lacking national government credentials.
FRANS TIMMERMANS – Dutch, center-left S&D, 58, Juncker’s deputy, former foreign minister, fluent in five EU languages.
Has credentials and oratory that Weber lacks but hampered by Socialists’ poor showing in EU and national elections.
MICHEL BARNIER – French, EPP, 68, EU Brexit negotiator, former foreign minister, MEP and EU commissioner.
Dark horse, not running in election but discreetly working to capitalize on respect of leaders for Brexit negotiations; energy belies age; as a moderate French conservative, seems to have backing of liberal Macron and German EPP Chancellor Angela Merkel. Has respect in Parliament for keeping it in the loop on Brexit talks. He can cite Brexit as excuse for not seeking EPP nomination as he did in 2014, when he lost out to Juncker.
MARGRETHE VESTAGER – Danish, ALDE, 51, EU commissioner.
Promoted by ALDE centrists in campaign, attacks on big U.S. firms’ tax affairs raised profile; as a liberal and a woman, she could please Macron, Merkel and several liberal prime ministers.
KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA – Bulgarian, EPP, 65, CEO World Bank, former EU commissioner and World Bank economist.
Quietly touted by some eastern governments as first EU chief executive from ex-Communist bloc. Gender also an advantage, she won kudos for frank talk while managing EU budget until 2016.
CHRISTINE LAGARDE – French, EPP, 63, IMF managing director, former finance minister after success as corporate lawyer.
Another dark horse, cited by those who see leaders keen to see the first woman to run the EU. Credited for keeping U.S.-based IMF helpful to Europeans during the euro zone crisis.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE – Lithuanian, 63, EPP-allied, president since 2009, former EU commissioner and finance minister.
A decade at the EU summit table gives her profile to replace Tusk at the European Council. But some see her as too blunt and too hostile to Russia to guide EU leaders toward consensus.
MARK RUTTE – Dutch, 52, ALDE, prime minister since 2010.
Summit veteran, his appetite for a Brussels job is unclear. Hawkish fiscal and free enterprise views could test his ability to build consensus in Council or Commission but he is effective.
VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS – Latvian, 47, EPP, Commission vice president for the euro, former prime minister.
An engineer and central bank economist, has won credit for rigor and fairness in euro zone but has low public profile.
GUY VERHOFSTADT – Belgian, 66, ALDE, liberal leader and Brexit point man in Parliament, former prime minister.
Arch euro-federalist, contender for Parliament president; some see the five-year mandate split in two, perhaps with Weber.
ANDREJ PLENKOVIC – Croatian, 49, EPP, prime minister.
Former MEP from Union’s newest member has been courting EPP and eastern allies, diplomats say, with an eye to Brussels job.
JOSEP BORRELL – Spanish, 72, S&D, foreign minister.
Re-election last month, rare among Europe’s Socialists, has fired up Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to push for Spaniards and, despite age, former EU parliament president is being mentioned.
NADIA CALVINO – Spanish, 50, S&D, economy minister.
Until last year the Commission’s top budget official, she too could benefit from Sanchez’s campaign.
CHARLES MICHEL – Belgian, 43, ALDE, prime minister.
May be out of a job after Belgian election on same day as EU vote. Could fancy replacing Tusk after years at summit table.
ALEXANDER STUBB – Finnish, 51, EPP, European Investment Bank vice president, former prime minister and finance minister.
Multilingual europhile, lost to Weber in EPP Spitzenkandidat race but this consummate EU networker is a perennial contender.
HELLA THORNING-SCHMIDT – Danish, 52, S&D, CEO of NGO Save the Children, former prime minister.
Another name routinely mentioned, her gender is an advantage but center-left woes in the EU hurt chances.
ANGELA MERKEL – German, 64, EPP, chancellor since 2005.
She denies any EU ambition as she serves out her last term. Her stature could bolster an EU beleaguered by nationalists but might also provoke more charges it is a vehicle for German rule.
THE CENTRAL BANKERS
Part of the mix, especially in arm-wrestling between France and Germany, is who will run the ECB. Possibles include:
JENS WEIDMANN – German, 51, heads Bundesbank central bank
FRANCOIS VILLEROY DE GALHAU – French, 60, heads central bank
OLLI REHN – Finnish, 57, heads central bank
ERKKI LIIKANEN – Finnish, 68, former central bank head
KLAAS KNOT – Dutch, 52, central bank head
(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Catherine Evans)