Cold-called by Merkel and Macron – now he wants more power
I n September, important decisions will be made in the EU personnel merry-go-round, which are not likely to remain without consequences for German European policy. Two men are looking for a new job: Manfred Weber, 49, and Martin Selmayr, 50. Weber is CSU vice president and, as leader of the conservative majority EPP group in the European Parliament, one of the most powerful politicians in Brussels.
Selmayr, for his part, was for years the most important of the 40 or so members of the European Commission under EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.000 officials in Brussels, but he was relegated by Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen to the "cooling pool" in Vienna. As a well-paid breakfast director, he now heads a largely insignificant branch of the EU Commission there – too little for a man who is also called "Rasputin" in Brussels because of his pronounced striving for power and his leadership style. But what will become of the two Germans?
Refugees from Afghanistan
Weber announced to journalists in the summer that he would decide on his further plans in September. Then he disappeared for four weeks to Wildenberg in Lower Bavaria. Weber loves his homeland: the beer at the "Purkwanger Hof," the prayers in the late Gothic parish church of St. Andreas, the blooming water lilies in his own garden pond – all this gives Weber strength for important decisions.
Unique chance for Weber
Now, according to information from WELT, everything indicates that he has made up his mind: Weber wants to remain chairman of his parliamentary group and at the same time become head of the conservative EPP party family in Europe, which also includes the German Union parties. The post of party leader will become vacant because the previous incumbent, Poland’s former head of government Donald Tusk, is returning home to lead the opposition movement there.
For Weber, this is a unique opportunity. The CSU politician would significantly expand his power base in Brussels and thus also his influence on politics in Europe. Why? Those who use the office of party leader properly – unlike the pale Tusk – coordinate and influence the positions of the conservative heads of government on important political issues such as climate protection and migration policy before every EU summit. In addition, the EPP party leader is in permanent contact with the conservative party leaders in Europe and lashes out common lines. Weber would then be playing in the European Champions League.
High deficits of euro states
Actually, everything was supposed to turn out differently: According to the plan, Weber and not von der Leyen was to become head of the EU Commission in the fall of 2019, after the EPP had won the European elections with him as its top candidate. Chancellor Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, however, surprisingly favored the then German defense minister – supported by Hungary’s head of government Viktor Orban. As a consolation, Weber was to become president of the EU Parliament for two and a half years at the halay point of the legislative period, following the Socialist David Sassoli.
But the Lower Bavarian has now decided against it. This is not unexpected. Unlike years ago, the office of parliamentary speaker is now only a prestigious representative post – and a dead end for ambitious politicians. Instead, the new president of the EU Parliament is likely to be the Maltese Roberta Metsola, a lawyer and experienced home affairs politician, at the end of the year.
"Weber must be careful not to gamble himself away"
It can be assumed that in addition to Metsola, Esther de Lange from the Netherlands and Esteban Gonzalez Pons from Spain will possibly also run for the office of parliamentary president. But they are unlikely to prevail against Metsola. So there will be losers.
It is now also conceivable that the affable Gonzalez Pons will try to challenge Weber for the office of parliamentary group leader. "Weber has to be careful not to miscalculate," says a high-ranking EPP man. In the end, however, the decision on the group chairmanship will probably also depend on whether Daniel Caspary and Angelika Niebler, the chairmen of the 29 German CDU/CSU members and thus the largest national delegation in the EPP group, will be able to organize the necessary support in their own ranks.