European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will run to be the social democrats’ lead candidate in next year’s European Parliament election, he declared Monday.
“I want to be in the lead and energize our collective efforts in the social democratic family to push for inspiring solutions for the people of Europe,” said the Slovak politician, who is currently responsible for the energy union, announcing his decision at the European Parliament.
“We are going through societal changes that many people find threatening,” he said, citing the challenges of migration and automation, among other issues, and warning against “false promises” that “exploit people’s fears” and “thrive on divisions.”
Šefčovič presented himself who, as someone from the former communist bloc, is particularly sensitive to the East-West divide, saying: “To restart to the integration engine, we need to stop talking about north, south, east, west. We have to get rid of the barbed wire fences in our minds.”
“Our values can and should be our main assets,” he said, adding “this vision is relevant to all member states.”
Šefčovič initially signaled his interest in the job back in June, backed by social democrats from Central Europe. Under the Spitzenkandidat system backed by the Parliament, the social democrats’ lead candidate in the election would also be their candidate for the next European Commission president.
Monday’s announcement makes Šefčovič is the first social democrat to formally declare his candidacy. Others, such as Dutch Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, are still gauging their chances, while European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has taken herself out of the race.
“My vision is clear: We need our people from all walks of life from every corner of Europe to feel fit for the future,” Šefčovič said, adding that he wants to “increase people’s sense of stability and security as well as their sense of belonging to our common EU project.”
Europe, he said, “must have everyone’s back” and become “confident and proud, smart and green, socially fair and showing solidarity.”
He also called on Europe to “lead by example” with an assertive trade and competition policy, and strong industrial policies that focus on upskilling and creating high quality jobs.
“We will have to build up our own resources, because we can’t rely on anyone else. We need to make sure this century is European, and it can be.”