Ukraine likely to dominate first day of Dublin Congress

Seventeen heads of state to attend EPP event

 Michel Barnier:  One of three candidates  seeking the nomination for the position of president of the European Commission. Photograph: Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)

Michel Barnier: One of three candidates seeking the nomination for the position of president of the European Commission. Photograph: Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)

Thu, Mar 6, 2014, 11:19

Up to 2,000 delegates arrive in Dublin today for the start of the European People’s Party (EPP) conference, where the group will pick its preferred candidate to succeed José Manuel Barroso as president of the European Commission.

Three candidates are seeking the nomination for the position – former Latvian prime minister Vladis Dombrovskis, EU internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier and former Luxembourg prime minister Jean- Claude Juncker.

A decision is expected tomorrow lunchtime, with Mr Juncker the preferred candidate having won the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party.

This is the first time the various political groupings in the European Parliament are naming their preferred candidates ahead of the European elections.

With an emergency meeting of EU leaders on events in Ukraine scheduled in Brussels today, the focus of events in Dublin is likely to be Ukraine, with three key figures in the Kiev uprising due to attend.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrived in Brussels this morning for the crisis meeting, before returning to Dublin for the EPP conference this afternoon. Some 12 EU leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, are expected to travel to Dublin direct from Brussels for a meeting this evening at 7pm in the Convention Centre.

Freed Ukraine opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Vitali Klitschko, and newly elected prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will participate in today’s plenary session at Dublin’s Convention Centre. Mr Yatsenyuk will meet EU leaders and Commission president José Manuel Barroso earlier in the day in Brussels.

The Lisbon Treaty states that the election of the European Commission president “must take account of” the results of the European elections, a provision interpreted by the Socialists and Democratic Party (S&D) to mean the candidate of the party that wins the most seats in the European elections will become commission president.


Reservations
Despite the EPP’s commitment to pick a candidate this week, several countries, including Germany, have reservations about the process, with the result that the selected candidate may not be automatically elected should the EPP emerge as the strongest party in May’s elections.

The S&D’s candidate is European Parliament president Martin Schulz, while former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt is the candidate for liberal group ALDE, the third-largest political group in the parliament, despite a last-minute attempt by EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn to seek the nomination.


EU leaders
Leaders from across the EU, including Enda Kenny, are attending the emergency summit in Brussels, convened on Monday in response to the Ukrainian crisis.

Yesterday, the European Union announced an aid package of up to €11 billion over two years for Ukraine, provided it signs up to a rescue package with the IMF, as the country teeters on the brink of insolvency. Leaders are expected to discuss sanctions, having given Russia an effective deadline of today by which time it must return troops to bases.

With the summit due to finish at about 3pm in Brussels, EPP leaders will travel direct to Dublin where a meeting is scheduled for about 7pm.

Tomorrow morning will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and Portuguese leader Pedro Passos Coelho among others participate in a plenary session at the Convention Centre, with the successful candidate for commission president due to be announced at 1pm.

About 500 media representatives have signed up for the event, as well as 13 EU commissioners and 17 heads of state.