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Nicolas Schmit gets German backing to lead Socialists’ EU election campaign

Nicolas Schmit gets German backing to lead Socialists’ EU election campaign

by host

BRUSSELS — With time running out, the only name being touted to lead the Socialists’ campaign for the European Parliament elections in June Luxembourg’s EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit.

Schmit is the only politician so far to have publicly declared an interest in the role, which could pit him against his current boss, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, if she in turn decides to run as the face of her center-right European People Party’s campaign.

“My name is circulating,” Schmit told POLITICO. “And certainly, I’m open.”

Jens Geier, the top German Social Democrat MEP, said: “There is already the name of Nicolas Schmit on the table who is in my eyes an absolutely respectable and convincing person to run the job. Up to now I have not heard about additional names,” he said.

Schmit, the EU’s commissioner for jobs and social rights, is far from a household name across Europe, certainly not compared to von der Leyen, which would present a tough challenge to Schmit, whose socialist family is already lagging far behind the EPP in POLITICO’s Poll of Polls.

The political camp that wins the European elections is typically in a strong bargaining position going into the horse-trading for top jobs running powerful EU institutions.

“Probably my mother doesn’t know him but it’s then our job in the election campaign to make him known,” Geier said. “He is a well-performing commissioner in this von der Leyen College, he has an impressive track record when it comes to social change … and he is well known and accepted among trade unionists and progressive forces in Europe.”

For 70-year-old Schmit, who speaks German, it would likely be the only way to stay in Brussels, as his party is no longer a part of the new government of Luxembourg, his home country.

Iratxe García, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats faction in Parliament, told journalists Wednesday that she did not envisage two candidates coming forward in the race.

Schmit is emerging as the frontrunner in what is not a packed field. Socialist heavyweights who may have been well placed to play a role in the EU campaigns have dropped off the map: Frans Timmermans, who led the Socialists in 2019, returned to national politics in the Netherlands, while António Costa’s Portuguese government fell last year in a corruption scandal.

Candidates have until January 18 to signal their interest. The Party of European Socialists will take the decision at a congress in Rome on March 2. The EPP will pick its lead candidate a few days later in Bucharest.

A PES spokesperson was contacted to ask if Schmit has submitted his officially submitted his candidacy.

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