by Johannes Bürgin

Helsinki 8 November: The EPP has elected, at its annual congress, the “Spitzenkandidat” for the upcoming European elections.  

Manfred Weber, who has been the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament since 2014, was elected on 8 November as the new leading candidate for the European elections in 2019. His political opponent Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, and could celebrate a clear victory. Out of the 619 valid votes cast, 492 accounted for Weber.  

Born in a small village in the rural area of Lower Bavaria in Germany in 1972, Manfred Weber has been active in local politics from an early age. Joining the centre-right party CSU marked the beginning of his political career.  

Especially his roots and the personal background can be seen as a strategic advantage for Manfred Weber as a candidate for the European Commission. Being close to the people, getting confronted with regional topics and issues in Bavaria, but also his strong belief in values and ideals, are necessary qualities for this job. 

“Bringing Europe back to the people” – a statement that is often used by Weber, shows how he wants to shape the European Union.  

People should see how Europe is affecting them in their daily life and how useful a European collaboration can be. The new #DiscoverEU interrail tickets for young adults, is just one example of how he is going to approach this statement. Weber also wants to fight Cancer by investing in research and starting preventative measures, as well as providing digital infrastructure throughout all of Europe.  

On top of this, Erasmus and Erasmus+ programs for students should be extended.  

Moreover, he is also focusing on strengthening the external borders of the EU to guarantee the safety of all EU citizens. Reinforcing the “Frontex” agency by creating 10,000 new jobs, focusing on higher deportation quotes but also ensuring that only immigrants with legal passports can enter the EU, are only three proposals Weber has said he wants to implement.  

In addition, Weber has a clear opinion in terms of the accession of Turkey to the European Union. Europe needs to stop negotiations and to communicate that under the current situation with regards to human and civil rights, an entry into the EU is almost impossible. 

Manfred Weber is also stressing the common values we share within the European Union. The rule of law, a system of running democracies, human rights, common traditions and customs and the economic interrelations are just a few examples of unifying aspects. The only way to fight against EU scepticism and populistic tendencies is by emphasizing the positive sides and not only talking about the negative and dividing issues. 

In the end, Weber´s campaign can be seen as a chance for the EPP family and the whole of the European Union. With his moral values and the strong connection to the people, Manfred Weber is the best candidate to connect the different political cultures within the EU. He knows that he has to concentrate on reducing bureaucracy and on implementing policies which are useful for every citizen.  

As he is just 46, Manfred Weber symbolises renewal within the EPP. It is a sign that Europe is about the future. Meaning that politics should also be for the younger generation. 

And last but not least Webers candidacy is a symbol of stabilization. As he is the leading man in the EPP parliamentary group, Weber accurately knows how European politics is working. In these times of Brexit, economic tensions with the US and a rising threat from the East, Europe needs to stand together. The fact that he is German and is representing one of the most powerful countries in the EU, also helps to project stability and order. 

But in the end, the European people decide who is going to lead the commission. EPP is well prepared but the decisive months are yet to come. It is important now to positively look into the future and have an unambiguous path to fight against EU sceptic movements.  Weber has a good starting point, but he needs the support of all the members to be successful.  

18 December 2018
This text was published in Bullseye issue 74