Race for EU presidency, as German leader throws hat in ring

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By Stefan Grobe  & Damon Embling
Race for EU presidency, as German leader throws hat in ring

German Conservative Manfred Weber has thrown his hat into the ring, bidding to front the centre-right in European elections next year.

The Bavarian heads up the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) grouping in the EU parliament.

If he wins the backing of other member parties, he'd be a front runner to take over the top job of European Commission president next year, from Jean Claude Juncker.

But, in Brussels, Weber was reluctant to speak to the media about it all.

"Today's European Union is not connected to the people in the European Union. People see Brussels mainly as a bureaucratic level, as a elite level - and I want to change this," said Weber, caving into pressure from a Euronews' Political Editor.

Weber is a political heavyweight in Brussels. He represents the biggest political group in Europe and comes from the biggest country.

And at only 46, he is a veteran of EU politics, having been in the European Parliament since 2004.

But, on the other hand, he has zero executive experience, is little known outside the Brussels bubble and faces domestic hurdles in his home state of Bavaria: should his party lose the state's election in October, the current leadership might be forced out with Weber being called to take a top job in Munich.

The European election outcomes will likely be messy. No political group polls over 30 percent.

Weber's backers say he knows the EU like no-one else.

German EPP member Peter Jahr said: "If you want to offer a lead candidate, then it has to be someone who is electable (acceptable) across Europe and who people identify with and say: This is our guy!"

Another EPP member, Daniel Caspary, added: "The strength of Manfred Weber's candidacy is that he knows the European Union and the 28 member states like no one else. He is well respected as EPP group chairman and has a proven track record as a bridge builder."