EU party blocs push for Junker’s job

EU party blocs push for Junker’s job

As key European elections loom in late May, numerous candidates are looking to replace Jean-Claude Juncker, the current president of the European Commission.

The political groupings in the European Parliament have named their lead candidates for the top job.

The European People’s Party (EPP) picked Manfred Weber, who at 29, became Bavaria’s youngest parliamentary member in 2003.

At 41, he was the youngest group leader in the European Parliament when selected to run the EPP in 2014.

Weber has opposed European anti-immigrant populists but is personally conservative on migration.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) named seven candidates for the job, including group leader Guy Verhofstadt, who represents the parliament in Brexit negotiations, and European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager.

“Our campaign is to, first of all, raise awareness about our project, the distribution of jobs will come later. We have seven candidates to defend our values, we don’t want to enter an “only for the job” logic, we want to defend our ideas,” an ALDE spokesman said.

The Party of European Socialists (PES) has picked current deputy commissioner Frans Timmermans. The Dutch politician said after his nomination: “These elections in May, my friends, are not ordinary elections. These are the elections with the most at stake since direct elections to the European Parliament were introduced in 1979. These elections are about the soul of Europe.”

Timmermans said only a “social democratic victory” at the elections would “secure a free, fair, and sustainable society for people across Europe”.

Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists (ACRE) selected Jan Zahradil. The Czech politician supports reforms to de-centralise the EU and give more power to the member states.

He promised a “scaled-back, flexible and decentralised” EU if he won.

The Czech politician has been described as a climate sceptic, which he denies, but he opposes “green ideology”, which could hurt Europe financially without helping the environment, he said.

Zahradil wants a multi-currency EU and a bigger focus on free trade.

Russian interference?

Russian state-linked hackers are increasing their efforts ahead of the elections, FireEye, a cybersecurity firm warned.

Among the two groups involved is Fancy Bear, also known as APT28, which played a role in the hacking of the Democrats ahead of the 2016 US presidential election, FireEye said. The other group is being called the Sandworm Team.

FireEye said European government departments and agencies were being increasingly targeted since mid-2018. The media in France and Germany have also been affected, the firm added.

“The groups’ most common method of initial compromise is spear phishing, which involves sending emails to targets with the intention of prompting them to click a malicious link or attachment. This can deliver a malicious document or link to a fake login site used to steal passwords,” FireEye said.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s job is highly prized. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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