PARIS (Reuters) - 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 legislature.
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 candidate.
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 center-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.
Reporting by Mark John, editing by Elizabeth Piper