September 5, 2018 / 11:55 AM / 20 days ago

Who's EU? Names in frame for Juncker job

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Following are some of the many possible contenders to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive after elections to the European Parliament in May.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 20, 2018. Picture taken June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Aside from electoral uncertainty, it is also unclear that national leaders will follow Parliament’s call for them to pick a European Commission president from among the lead candidates — or Spitzenkandidaten — of parties contesting the ballot.

CONSERVATIVES

MANFRED WEBER - An MEP for 14 years, the German has led the biggest EU parliamentary group since 2014. Declaring he will run on Wednesday, he secured public support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel despite his youth, at 46, and lack of government experience typical of Commission presidents.

MICHEL BARNIER - Former French farm and foreign minister, at 67 he is four years older than the outgoing Juncker, a former Luxembourg premier, but has raised his profile by running the Brexit negotiations with London for the Commission. He may lack support from Paris, where centrist President Emmanuel Macron has made clear his opposition to the whole Spitzenkandidat system.

ALEXANDER STUBB - The former Finnish prime minister could challenge Weber at an EPP nominating convention in Helsinki on Nov. 8. Stubb, 50, competes in “Iron Man” triathlons and is multilingual unlike Weber, who does not speak French, or Barnier, who rarely seems comfortable in English.

Many other names cited have included French IMF managing director CHRISTINE LAGARDE not to mention the wild card of ANGELA MERKEL herself, who is now in her fourth term.

SOCIALISTS

MAROS SEFCOVIC - A Moscow-educated Slovak diplomat who has worked in Brussels since 2004 and is Juncker’s vice president for energy said in June he would run. He is 52.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI - The 45-year-old was catapulted into the high-ranked Commission post of EU foreign policy chief in 2014. She could benefit from efforts to promote female candidates and a better left-right balance in Brussels but may struggle to get the necessary support from the new populist coalition in Rome.

HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT - Danish prime minister until 2015, at 51 she is perennially cited as a center-left hope for senior EU roles but lacks backing from the ruling right in Copenhagen.

FRANS TIMMERMANS - Juncker’s Dutch deputy, 57, is a former foreign minister and passionate, multilingual advocate for the EU but his party’s national eclipse counts against him.

PIERRE MOSCOVICI - Former French finance minister, 60, now EU economics commissioner, his party’s national disarray is also a disadvantage, as is German wariness over his commitment to Berlin’s vision of a euro zone of tight public finances.

NADIA CALVINO - Long a senior Commission civil servant, at 50 she has the rare distinction for EU Socialists of being in power, having been named Madrid’s economy minister in June.

LIBERALS

GUY VERHOFSTADT - Former Belgian prime minister who leads the liberals in the EU parliament, his age (65) and outspoken advocacy of much more powers for Brussels may limit his appeal.

MARGRETE VESTAGER - As a woman, aged 50 and with a star profile in Brussels from attacking tax avoidance and monopoly powers among U.S. multinationals like Google and Apple as the EU competition commissioner, the Danish former economy minister is widely talked about as a liberal who could win support beyond her party — even if Denmark’s ruling conservatives oppose her.

CECILIA MALMSTROM - Another straight-talking, 50-year-old Scandinavian woman who has had a big role in Brussels’ tussles with Washington, the EU trade commissioner and former Swedish Europe minister could tick similar boxes to Vestager.

MARK RUTTE - Dutch prime minister for eight years, the 51-year-old may be tempted by a new job but may prefer Donald Tusk’s role chairing EU leaders’ summits. He is solidly pro-EU but appeals to those wanting budgets and powers kept in check.

XAVIER BETTEL - In five years as Luxembourg prime minister, during which he notably married his male partner, the 45-year-old has built good relations with fellow national leaders. They might baulk at choosing another Luxemburger after Juncker but his friendship with the even younger Macron could be an asset.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Alastair MacdonaldEditing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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