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Czech PM: Visegrad group does not have candidate to lead European Commission

Reuters | Budapest | Updated: 13-06-2019 18:30 IST | Created: 13-06-2019 17:39 IST
Czech PM: Visegrad group does not have candidate to lead European Commission
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The Visegrad group of central European countries does not have a joint candidate for European Commission president, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said after meeting his counterparts from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in Budapest on Thursday.

EU member states must pick new presidents of the executive European Commission, the European Council -- which groups member states -- the European Parliament and the European Central Bank. The EU's ex-communist eastern members, which have joined the bloc since 2004, have been discussing how to make sure their voice is heard in steering the course for a continent long dominated by wealthy western states such as Germany and France.

EU leaders will meet on June 20-21 to haggle over the jobs, aiming to balance the interests of individual states and groups of countries as well as political parties. Babis said, however, the group did not have a joint candidate for Commission president, nor for European Council president -- a post now held by a Pole, Donald Tusk.

"The point is for us all to choose the best candidate for everybody," Babis told reporters in a briefing shown live on Czech television. "It is not about the V4 having (a candidate) for the post of the European Commission president, not even for the European Council. I think that we don't have such ambitions."

Hungarian premier Viktor Orban's spokesman added in a statement that the group would "represent a shared point of view" on both personnel and policy at the summit. One potential name that has been discussed in the Visegrad group was Slovak diplomat Maros Sefcovic, the current commission Vice-President, but Babis stopped short of calling him a joint candidate.

"(His name) was mentioned briefly ... At the moment, it is not about us pushing somebody, at the moment it is a debate whether a spitzenkandidat (lead candidates put forward by groupings in the European Parliament) or someone else." The V4 countries take a tough stance on issues such as migration and are generally opposed to moves to concentrate more powers in EU institutions. The right-wing nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland have clashed with Brussels over immigration and rule of law issues. Of the V4 countries only Slovakia uses the euro and the other three show no inclination to ditch their national currencies even though they are formally committed to doing so.

Southern European leaders convene in Malta on Friday, while Belgian premier Charles Michel also hosted leaders for a dinner last week. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka in PRAGUE and Marton Dunai in BUDAPEST; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Catherine Evans)



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