The European People’s Party on Wednesday reelected Manfred Weber as leader of its group in the European Parliament but the German also remains its nominee for the European Commission presidency.
The center-right group, the largest bloc in the Parliament, overwhelmingly backed Weber, “demonstrating our Members’ trust in his leadership and unity within our Group,” the EPP said in a tweet. The Bavarian secured 156 out of 160 votes cast. He faced no opposing candidates.
Weber hopes to move on to the Commission presidency later this year, although his chances of securing the post are highly uncertain, with a range of EU member countries including France ranged against him. Weber could, however, also end up with another senior post, such as Germany’s European commissioner or president of the Parliament.
The EPP group also reelected current vice chairs, including MEP Esteban González Pons from Spain and Esther de Lange from the Netherlands. If Weber moves on, Gonzales Pons and de Lange have long been seen as leading candidates to replace him at the top of the group.
Pilar del Castillo, an MEP for Spain’s Popular Party (PP) and former minister, told POLITICO her party will propose González Pons as Weber’s successor if the German moves on to another post.
“We want Esteban González Pons to be our president, he will be our candidate to become president of the EPP, replacing Manfred Weber … if there’s that option,” Del Castillo said.
Germany’s CDU/CSU alliance is by far the largest force in the EPP bloc but some group members have made clear they think it should be the turn of a non-German to have the leading role.
González Pons, a former spokesperson for the Popular Party in the Spanish senate, has been an MEP since 2004.
With 12 seats in the new Parliament, his party is the fifth largest delegation in the EPP group, behind the German, Polish, Romanian and Hungarian delegations.
De Lange, a member of the Dutch CDA party has been an MEP since 2007. She is also the vice chair of the special committee on financial crime, tax evasion and tax avoidance in the EU chamber.