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Slovak Socialist Maros Sefcovic announced Monday his bid to run for head of the European Commission, the EU executive, promising to fight anti-European populism.
Sefcovic, the current commission’s vice president for energy union, is the first candidate from the Socialists and Democrats group to announce.
The commission president’s job is held by Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister who steps down next year.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the dominant centre-right bloc in the European Parliament and an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, threw his hat into the ring last week.
“Across Europe we hear about simplistic solutions built on populist, anti-European or xenophobic views,” Sefcovic told a press conference as anti-migrant populists hold sway in EU countries like Hungary, Poland and Italy.
Sefcovic, a 52-year-old former Slovak diplomat who has served ten years on the commission, warned that these movements “exploit people’s fears” and are “eager to destroy our European cooperation, our European dream.”
He said he would promote economic innovation and life-long training for all Europeans to tackle the destabilising economic effects of globalisation and the rowing gap between rich and poor.
He pledged to fight discrimination, poverty and climate change.
Sefcovic announced his bid for the job after saying he got the required support of nine national parties that belong to the Socialists and Democrats bloc in the European Parliament, the second biggest after Weber’s European People’s Party.
Other possible socialist candidates for the top commission job are Pierre Moscovici, the current French economy commissioner, and Frans Timmermans, the Dutchman who is Juncker’s right-hand man as First Vice President.
But the pair have not yet announced their plans.
In the next few months, each European political group is due to nominate its candidate for president of the European Commission ahead of elections to a new European Parliament in May next year.
The European Council, made up of the leaders of the EU member countries, is then charged with naming the president of the commission, who must also win majority backing in the parliament.
Most MEPs want the leaders’ council to approve the candidate who emerges from the political group that wins the most votes in the May parliamentary elections.
However, the European Council is refusing to commit to respecting this method, which was used to name Juncker, a member of Weber’s EPP bloc, as commission chief.Source: AFP