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Finnish ex-prime minister bids to become EU Commission head

October 2, 2018

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 file photo, Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU finance ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg. Former Finnish Prime Minister Stubb says he will run for the head of the European Commission following next year's elections, it was reported on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Stubb has announced his bid at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, saying he sees himself as the "next generation candidate" to lead the European Union, a bloc which will decrease by one to 27 members after Britain’s planned departure in March. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

HELSINKI (AP) — Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said Tuesday he would run for the head of the European Commission following next year’s elections.

Stubb announced his bid at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, saying he sees himself as the “next generation candidate” to lead the European Union, a bloc that will decrease by one to 27 members after Britain’s planned departure in March.

To achieve his goal, he launched a bid to become the top candidate within the center-right European People’s Party, or EPP, in the European elections in May.

The top candidate is very likely to become the European Commission’s next leader should the EPP retain its position as the largest group at the EU Parliament, which elects the commission president.

The current holder of the post, Jean-Claude Juncker, won’t seek another five-year term.

“I see that core European values are being attacked both from inside and outside” the European Union, Stubb, who is liberal-leaning and age 50, said.

He was referring to recent political developments in member states Hungary, Italy and Poland as well as attempts by China, Russia and the United States to undermine the bloc.

“If we don’t defend what we represent, we’ll have nothing left,” he said, listing democracy, equality, tolerance and respect for legal institutions as key EU values among others.

Stubb led the Finnish government from 2014-2015.

He’s also a former finance and foreign minister, and ex-leader of Finland’s conservative National Coalition Party, currently serving as a vice president at the European Investment Bank.

Stubb’s main rival is likely to be Germany’s Manfred Weber, a European lawmaker who has been endorsed by Chancellor Angela Merkel for the post.

EPP, which currently includes 77 member parties and partners from 41 European countries, will elect its top candidate at a party congress in Helsinki on Nov. 7-8.

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