Home » Tajani plays it cool on next EU Commission president

Tajani plays it cool on next EU Commission president

The most influential Italian in the European People’s Party has refrained from taking a decisive stance on a name to lead the European executive, even after the group’s backing of the incumbent, Ursula von der Leyen. Mario Draghi’s name is also in the mix, as is the Italian parties’ need to carve out their own space

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani – who leads Forza Italia, the biggest Italia force in the European People’s Party, and is Vice-President of the latter – poured cold water on the expectation he’d back a candidate for the top job at the European Commission.

  • “We respect the rules, as always,” he noted, stressing that “there are a number of steps that will lead to the indication of the future Commission President” – including the EU Council indicating the candidate according to the result of the EU elections.

What about von der Leyen? “At present, the EPP Congress has indicated [the incumbent, Ursula] von der Leyen, then we will see… However, one thing is certain: the next president of the Commission must be an EPP representative,” FM Tajani told the press. He struck a less-than-certain chord on the EPP-backed candidate, although he also admitted that she “cannot be replaced […] with another person, with another political affiliation.”

And Super Mario? “[Mr] Draghi is a high-level personality, but it is the member States that have to decide, and it is too early to talk about names,” he reiterated when questioned about the former Italian PM and head of the European Central Bank – and the rumours that see him as a viable candidate for the top job. All decisions must be taken after the vote, he repeated, rejecting “rash or Italo-centric predictions.”

  • A closer look at FM Tajani’s governing fellows might yield a rationale as to his cautiousness, given the nature of EU elections – which requires parties to strive to differentiate themselves – and the internal balances of the current Italian government.

The Meloni variable. PM Giorgia Meloni heads the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, and the growing entend between ECR and EPP – which was evidenced multiple times over the past months – suggests that the EPP and ECR might end up allying to elect the next Commission President.

  • PM Meloni has also established a (very public) working relationship with President von der Leyen on issues like migration.
  • With regards to Mr Draghi, her Brothers of Italy party was the only one in the opposition when he was PM – and though it acknowledges his value, it’s tepid on him leading the Commission.

The Salvini wildcard. On the other hand, League leader Matteo Salvini has flatly rejected both names. He has been advocating for a right-wing majority in the EU Parliament to build the next Commission – and relentlessly lambasting Ms von der Leyen in relation to the majority that supports her, which includes leftist and liberal groups.

  • The League is part of the Identity and Democracy Group, which hosts some members that EPP leaders (including Mr Tajani) have repeatedly rejected as potential allies – which makes the League’s EU design appear like a far-out chance.


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