France's Barnier throws name in race for EU Commission presidency

14th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier is set to run for the presidency of the European Commission, he revealed in an interview published Tuesday.

Current president Jose Manuel Barroso steps down on October 31, and parliamentary parties are already lining up their candidates to pre-empt any deal cobbled together by member states.

The centre-right European People's Party, the largest in Parliament, meets in Dublin in March, with Barnier and former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker the top two names.

"If I am picked by the European People's Party, I am ready to commit," the 63-year-old Frenchman told the Le Figaro daily.

Asked what his priorities would be if he was elected, Barnier pointed out that until now, the Commission had had to manage a crippling economic crisis.

"The five coming years must allow Europe to retake the initiative," he said, pointing to "industrial strategy, infrastructure policy, the single market, security, immigration" as areas of focus.

Barnier, who was briefly foreign minister under the centre-right presidency of Jacques Chirac and agriculture minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, said he did not expect France's current Socialist leader Francois Hollande to block his candidacy.

In the past, French presidents have backed candidates from the other side of the political spectrum for international posts, as was the case with IMF candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who received the support of Sarkozy.

Barnier has been in his current post since 2010, but was also a commissioner from 1999 to 2004 in charge of regional policy.

© 2014 AFP

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