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Austria confirms it wants Hahn to remain its European commissioner

Austria confirms it wants Hahn to remain its European commissioner
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VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria confirmed on Thursday that it wants Johannes Hahn, the current European Commissioner for enlargement, to stay on as its member of the next commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen.

The European Parliament on Tuesday confirmed von der Leyen as the next Commission president. She will soon have to name a new college of commissioners, with each European country vying for influential portfolios.

Hahn, a 61-year-old conservative, benefited from the fact Austria currently has a provisional government of civil servants, which is due to remain in place until after the next parliamentary election on Sept. 29.

The previous, right-wing government led by conservative Sebastian Kurz had appeared to prefer replacing Hahn with another conservative. After talks with all the parliamentary parties, Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein said last week she planned to nominate Hahn as the country’s commissioner.

On Thursday the cabinet unanimously backed Hahn as Austria’s nominee, and the decision was approved by the responsible parliamentary committee, as required by law.

“There was only one candidate for whom a broad parliamentary majority emerged,” Bierlein told a joint news conference with Hahn announcing his nomination.

Hahn said it was not yet possible to say which portfolio he would have.

“No one can provide any information on future portfolios at this point,” he said. “It is less than reading coffee grounds because the freshly confirmed (Commission) president must now deal with these things, must see who is nominated and then decide based on that.”

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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