Le Soir: Grabar-Kitarović and Plenković Candidates for European Commission President

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, June 20, 2019 – European Socialists and Liberals are strongly opposed to German Christian Democrat Manfred Weber’s bid for European Commission President, but they agree that this post is filled by the candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP), which is now seeking new candidates and among these undeclared candidates are two senior Croatian officials, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the Belgian daily Le Soir said on Thursday.

Citing unnamed sources, Le Soir says that the EPP is looking for a new candidate who could receive wider support. It says that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, could be such a candidate but none of the sources have mentioned his name.

On the other hand, the name of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has cropped up in the last 24 hours when the EPP, pressed by the need to abandon the candidacy of its leader Manfred Weber, intensified the search within its ranks, the newspaper said.

It recalled that Grabar-Kitarović had served as assistant to NATO’s secretary general before becoming President of Croatia in 2015. “There is a greater consensus about her than Prime Minister Plenković, who is also mentioned, but she has a somewhat more prominent nationalist profile,” Le Soir said.

The newspaper says that Plenković is appreciated among his colleagues, but that he has been chosen by heads of state or government from the EPP to represent them in tripartite prime ministerial negotiations on the appointment of heads of EU institutions. “He could be a useful and consensual solution,” it says.

According to Le Soir, if the EPP received the position of Commission President, the position of Council President would go to the Liberals, who have joined forces with MEPs elected on the list of French President Emmanuel Macron, and it could be filled by Charles Michel, acting Prime Minister of Belgium. The Socialists would get the position of Parliament President, which they would relinquish mid-term to the Greens, the position of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, who at the same time is Commission Vice-President, and an important economic department in the Commission. The newspaper notes that this is a highly uncertain scenario.

Although it is not very likely that either of the Croatians could get the post of Commission President, the fact that as many as two Croatian candidates are mentioned can be interpreted as an expression of confidence in the newest EU member, Le Soir says.

The leaders of the 28 EU member states are meeting for a two-day summit on Thursday to discuss the appointment of new heads of European institutions.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Brussels on Thursday declined to comment on the media reports. “Never mind the media reports. We’ve seen all sorts of things, such as articles in Politico and the Financial Times,” Plenković told the press on arrival for a meeting of the leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP), who traditionally meet before each EU summit.

On Thursday morning Plenković met with five prime ministers who represent their political groups to discuss the appointment of new heads of European institutions.

Plenković and Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins are negotiating on behalf of the EPP, the Socialists are represented by Spain’s Pedro Sanchez and Antonio Costa of Portugal, and the Liberals are represented by Belgian and Dutch Prime Ministers Charles Michel and Mark Rutte.

Plenković said that the negotiations were demanding and tough, with each group holding their own line. “Now we are having consultations with our respective political groups, after which we are continuing negotiations before the European Council meeting, and then comes a key dinner this evening. It will really be demanding, the negotiations are more than tough.”

Asked if he and Karins were defending Manfred Weber as their ‘spitzenkandidat’, Plenković answered affirmatively. “That’s the only mandate that we have,” he said.

Karins also said that the negotiations were difficult. So far, we have heard a lot of negative things, and I am trying to find what is positive. That’s what Andrej Plenković and I are working on with the representatives of other political groups. We must think how we can build something positive in Europe rather than focus on the negative, he said.

Karins would not comment on the media reports about Plenković and Grabar-Kitarović as possible candidates for Commission President. There are a lot of speculations being talked about and I’ll leave them to the speculators, the Latvian prime minister said.

More news about Croatia and the European Union can be found in the Politics section.


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