Weber seeks to lead EPP in new dual role

Manfred Weber announced Wednesday he wants to concentrate leadership of the European Parliament’s biggest group, the European People’s Party, under himself.

His plan: Run for reelection as the group’s leader, and then for a second job — EPP president.

The German MEP told party colleagues in a closed-door meeting he will run this October for another term as EPP group leader, while at the same time announcing his bid to become president of the center-right EPP next April, when the term of current EPP President Donald Tusk ends.

Weber told POLITICO his plan is to give the broad, pan-European party a stronger identity by working both as group leader, overseeing and coordinating legislation inside his group, and as president, strengthening ties with EPP national leaders and party members.

Critics say Tusk has been hardly visible as EPP president and done little to sharpen the party’s profile. The EPP could also be heading for difficult times following the German election on September 26, which will mark the departure of key EPP ally Chancellor Angela Merkel. The election could also result in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union — the German branch of the EPP — losing power to the Social Democrats.

Weber’s announcement means he’s backtracking from an initial plan to run as European Parliament president in January, when current Parliament President David Sassoli might need to step down under a deal political groups negotiated two years ago.

Two EPP officials said Weber determined it was unlikely he would be elected as parliamentary president, given another German, Ursula von der Leyen, already leads the European Commission.

As POLITICO reported Monday, the EPP might instead prioritize senior female candidates for the job — including Roberta Metsola, a Maltese vice president of the Parliament, and Dutch MEP Esther de Lange, a vice president of the EPP group.

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