TURKU, Finland (Reuters) - Former Finnish prime ministers Alexander Stubb and Jyrki Katainen left open the possibility on Saturday 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.
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 Maros Sefcovic, a member of center-left PES group, earlier this week declared his candidacy for the job.
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.
Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Helen Popper