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Former Finnish PM launches EU leadership bid

Vice-President of the European Investment Bank Alexander Stubb attends a press conference at the European Parliament on October 2, 2018 in Strasbourg, eastern France. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN

Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb launched a bid to become the next president of the European Commission on Tuesday.

Stubb said he would seek the nomination of the European Parliament’s centre-right EPP group for the European Union’s most powerful post.

The EPP is currently the biggest group in the Strasbourg chamber and is favourite to remain so after next May’s European election.

But Stubb, a vice-president of the European Investment bank, will face other candidates when the party meets next month in Helsinki to choose its champion.

The German head of the EPP parliamentary group, Max Weber, enjoys the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and is seen as a frontrunner.

Despite being at 50 only 13 years younger than incumbent EU president Jean-Claude Juncker — and four years older than Weber — Stubb’s slogan is: “Introducing the next generation of Europe.”

“I believe that European values are currently under attack from both outside of the EU, inside the EU and in our party proper,” Stubb said.

Stubb’s group is divided over how to respond to the rise of authoritarian populism in parts of Europe — including Hungary, whose ruling Fidesz party is in the EPP.

Aside from Stubb and Weber, France’s Michel Barnier has been cited as a possible EPP lead candidate ahead of next year’s election.

But the senior EU official has ruled himself out for the race for now while he concentrates on negotiating a Brexit deal with the British government.

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