The EU special summit in Brussels, at which the heads of state and government agreed on a partial embargo for Russian oil, could not be extended on Tuesday for a very practical reason. Some participants – such as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis – traveled straight from Brussels to Rotterdam. The congress of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) met there to elect CSU Vice President Manfred Weber as the new chairman of the party family.
Despite his roots in the Christian Social Party in Germany, the 49-year-old Weber has been a die-hard European politician for years. Since 2014 he has been chairman of the EPP Group, which is the largest group of representatives in the European Parliament. The fact that Weber is now also reaching for the post of head of the conservative European party family makes his claim to power clear.
His predecessor as EPP leader, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, did not give the position undue public visibility. Weber now wants to change this. For example, he envisions Europe’s conservatives coordinating better ahead of the EU summits and presenting a common position there.
This makes it clear that Weber does not want to leave events at the EU summits to leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron alone. It was Macron who thwarted Weber’s plan in 2019 to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the top candidate of the EPP party family. Instead, Macron pushed through the German Ursula von der Leyen as Juncker’s successor.
Weber also has a special history with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who for a long time blocked the oil embargo that was decided on the night of the Brussels summit. While radical demands aren’t Weber’s thing at all, critics accuse him of dwelling on Orbán for too long before his Fidesz supporters left the EPP group in Strasbourg last year. Orbán’s stance on blocking the oil embargo also contributed to Weber wanting to see the EU principle of unanimity abolished for decisions on sanctions as well.