Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, is the front-runner in the contest to become the European People’s Party nominee for president of the European Commission. EPP delegates will cast their votes at a meeting in Dublin tomorrow (7 March). The congress begins today with the election of an EPP party president.
Juncker’s rivals are Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the single market, and Valdis Dombrovskis, a former prime minister of Latvia. The EPP set a deadline of yesterday for nominations which require the backing of three national centre-right political parties.
Barnier has the support of his own party, France’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), as well as Slovenia’s NSi, and Hungary’s Fidesz, the party led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Fidesz has been criticised by MEPs and by Barnier’s Commission colleague, Viviane Reding, for heavy-handed constitutional reforms and interference with the judiciary.
Juncker has the support of his own party, Luxembourg’s CSV, plus the Christian Democratic Union of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and New Democracy in Greece.
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Dombrovskis has the support of Unity, his party in Latvia, as well as TS-LKD from Lithuania, and IRL in Estonia
Juncker, a former president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, goes into the contest as the clear favourite, having received the support of the EPP’s most powerful member, the CDU.
The party congress has been affected by an emergency summit of European Union leaders on the crisis in Ukraine that will take place today.
Twelve of the EU’s national leaders are members of the EPP, as are José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the Council of Ministers. They are expected to travel to Dublin tonight.