German ally of Merkel, Manfred Weber, gives up claim to lead EU executive

FILE PHOTO - Manfred Weber, member of the Bavarian Christian Democrats (CSU) and lead candidate of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) in European parliamentary elections, speaks at a news conference in Munich, Germany, May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday formally gave up his claim to become the next head of the European Commission, marking a step toward an agreement on assigning the bloc’s top jobs.

Manfred Weber had been appointed as the lead candidate - or so-called ‘Spitzenkandidat’ - to take over the executive EU Commission by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which is the biggest, albeit weakened, force in the new European Parliament following a continent-wide election in May.

“My journey as Spitzenkandidat started here and it is ending here,” Weber told the EPP lawmakers during an inaugural session of the new EU assembly in the French city of Strasbourg, his spokesman said on Twitter.

That paves the way for center-right national leaders, including Merkel, and lawmakers to endorse a tentative deal reached by all 28 EU national leaders on Tuesday after three days of tortuous talks on who would next hold the bloc’s key positions.

The proposal would see the Commission presidency going to a center-right German politician but it still requires approval from the European Parliament.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones