Who should be the next President of the European Commission? In the run-up to the 2019 European elections, we’ll be profiling the various Spitzenkandidaten (“lead candidates”) for the job. Next up is the candidate for the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, Chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament.
The EPP are a centre-right, Christian democratic party. Founded in 1976, they are currently the strongest political party in the European Parliament. The party is committed to European values and sees itself as one of the driving forces behind European integration.
Manfred Weber was born in 1972, in Niederhatzkofen, Lower Bavaria. He’s 46 years old, married, and a devout Catholic. He describes himself as a proud Bavarian with firms beliefs, for whom family is paramount. After graduating as an engineer, Weber dreamed of being his own boss, and founded two companies in the field of environmental quality management and occupational safety.
In addition to an entrepreneurial streak, Weber decided at a young age that his second passion was politics. Even as a 16-year-old, he was involved politically in the conservative “Junge Union Deutschlands” (Young Union of Germany), and from 2003 to 2007 was its regional chairman in Bavaria. At the age of 29, Weber joined the Bavarian State Parliament as its youngest member. Later, when he joined the European Parliament in 2004, Weber made a clear commitment to European politics, which he sees as “the future of politics par excellence”.
Weber is a committed pro-European. Although he is quick to emphasise that his region of Lower Bavaria is a key part of his identity and that he is a CSU man (a party that’s had a strained relationship with the European Union for quite some time), Europe has long been close to his heart.
Some have criticised his approach to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Amid heightened scrutiny of Hungary over allegations that civil rights and constitutional checks and balances were being eroded in the country, Weber defended Orbán and called for an end to the criticism, positioning himself as a “bridge builder” with the east. Weber did not back away from this position until September 2018, when the European Parliament voted in favour of a motion saying Hungary risked breaching fundamental EU values. Critics argue that Weber supported the motion knowing that to do otherwise would have hurt him politically.