PARIS Jan 14 France's Michel Barnier, the
European commissioner for financial regulation, has said he is
ready to run for the presidency of the European Union executive
succeeding Jose Manuel Barroso.
"If I am chosen by the European People's Party, I am ready
to commit myself," the conservative Barnier told Le Figaro
newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday. Barnier has for
months been seen as a potential candidate but this is the first
time he has explicitly confirmed his interest.
He said that, if chosen, his priorities would be furthering
EU policy in the areas of industrial strategy, infrastructure,
the single market, security and immigration.
Voters across the 28-nation European Union vote in late May
to elect a new European Parliament. Then in June, EU leaders
nominate a candidate to head the executive European Commission,
taking account of the election results.
The new legislature must then vote to confirm the nominee by
an absolute majority of the 751 lawmakers.
In his current post, Barnier has been heavily involved in
shaping plans for an EU banking union, one of the key pillars
seen as restoring international confidence in the financial
stability of the euro zone after its sovereign debt crisis.
Barnier's declaration of interest comes days after former
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU's
longest-serving elder statesman, threw his hat into the ring for
the ticket of the EPP, the main conservative grouping in the EU
The Socialist group, the second largest force in the current
legislature, has nominated Martin Schulz, a German Social
Democrat who now presides over the European Parliament, as its
The EPP will anoint its candidate at a convention in Dublin
on March 6-7. Political sources have said conservative German
Chancellor Angela Merkel may prefer a serving prime minister
such as Ireland's Enda Kenny, Poland's Donald Tusk or Finland's
Jyrki Katainen as Commission president.
The third largest political group, the centre-right
Liberals, is holding a primary contest between former Belgian
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Finnish European Commission
Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn.
Barroso, a conservative former Portuguese prime minister,
has run the Commission since 2004.