German SPD ready to cede EU top job if they keep parliament post

BERLIN, June 20 Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:55am EDT

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BERLIN, June 20 (Reuters) - Germany's Economy Minister said his party would accept one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives taking the German post on the European Commission if social democrat Martin Schulz remained president of the European Parliament, Spiegel magazine online said.

It was unclear whether other social democrat parties in Europe would support Schulz but diplomatic sources have told Reuters that European social democrat leaders will meet in Paris on Saturday to seek a common position on whom to support for the role of President of the European Commission.

"We will accept a conservative commissioner as long as Martin Schulz is elected president of the European Parliament," Spiegel's online edition quoted minister Sigmar Gabriel as saying.

"We need a strong Juncker/Schulz axis to face the challenges Europe faces," Gabriel said, adding the choice of former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president and the choice of Schulz should be linked.

"Angela Merkel will now have to convince her party group."

An SPD source said Gabriel's statements had been agreed with Schulz.

The Socialists, who campaigned with Schulz as their lead candidate, came second in the European election behind the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

Schulz, who was president of the European Parliament before the election, had recently wanted to take the post of vice-president of the European Commission; but Germany is only allowed one post and Merkel's conservatives had made clear they wanted to fill it given their result in the European election.

The current German European commissioner is Guenther Oettinger, who is responsible for energy issues. (Reporting by Stephen Brown, Holger Hansen and Michelle Martin; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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