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French liberal Valérie Hayer heading off ALDE challenge for EU liberals leadership

Valérie Hayer, from Macron's Renaissance party, has been leading the EU liberals' group since January 2021.
Valérie Hayer, from Macron's Renaissance party, has been leading the EU liberals' group since January 2021. Copyright Eric Vidal/EP
Copyright Eric Vidal/EP
By Paula Soler
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ALDE, the largest of the three political forces that make up the centrist Renew Europe, has been eyeing the French leadership of the grouping since the June election result - and now has a name in mind for the role: MEP João Cotrim de Figueiredo.

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French liberal Valérie Hayer looks set to survive a challenge to her leadership of the European Parliament's liberal Renew group after an attempt by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) — which forms the centrist group with Macron's Renaissance and the European Democratic Party (EDP) — to unseat her, according to two sources familiar with the issue.     

After an ALDE council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania last weekend, its bureau members proposed Portuguese MEP João Cotrim de Figueiredo, one of two first-time winners of seats for the Iniciativa Liberal party in the EU elections for the role — but support for his candidacy within the group does not seem strong enough, two sources confirmed to Euronews.  

Hayer is expected to secure sufficient support from the EDP, her own party and some ALDE members to continue leading the Renew group in the European Parliament.    

Applicants had until 10 pm this Monday to submit their candidacy, and a group vote will decide the new leader on Tuesday, where Hayer, from Macron's Renaissance party, will likely overcome the challenge, the sources said.    

The leadership contest follows a significant loss of seats for the French liberal delegation in the Liberal group, which fell from 23 to 10 after the June elections.      

Earlier this month, during a meeting of delegation leaders in Brussels, the ALDE party confirmed its intention to replace the French as leader of the group, which has been under French leadership since 2021 —  first with current French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné, and since January with Hayer. 

“Recognising the crucial role we play within the European Parliament and the group, ALDE Party is ready to assume the leadership responsibilities within the parliamentary group,” they said in a press release after the meeting.  

The original plan was to give unanimous support to Sophie Wilmès (Mouvement Reformateur), the former prime minister of Belgium —  but she did not put her name forward for the post because, according to three group sources, she may be eyeing a higher role in national politics.     

The leadership challenge comes at a bad time for the liberals, who have been bypassed by the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) as the third force in the parliament, with 83 seats to 74, after the pro-European Volt group decided to stay with the Greens and the Czech ANO party quit the group last Friday. 

The EU liberal group has until Wednesday to agree on its final composition, with more members expected to join Renew Europe and close the gap with the ECR group.    

At the time of publication, Wilmès' cabinet did not respond to a Euronews request for comment.     

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