October 03, 2018
Ironman Stubb wants to succeed Juncker
If triathletes are proud addicts to discipline, then the European People’s Party Alexander Stubb is a great case in point. The fabulously fit-looking polyglot Finn is the latest aspirant to throw his hat in the ring for the succession of Jean-Claude Juncker. And just in time too: the Stubb, as he is known amongst some journalists, intends to bolster his candidacy for the EPP’s spitzenkandidat in 2019 by projecting himself as a member of a new generation of European leaders - even if he has fallen on the wrong side of 50 earlier this year. But then it is true that the candidate’s outward appearance, toughened in Ironman competitions, detracts from any notion of advancing middle age.
Stubb’s youthfulness belies an impressive cv which could easily belong to a much older man. An alumnus of the College of Europe, the elite breeding ground for senior EU officials, he has successively served as a member of the European parliament, a minister of foreign affairs, of European affairs and trade, as prime minister, and as finance minister. Currently Stubb, who says he has closed the chapter of Finnish politics, works as vice-president of the European Investment bank.
So what are his chances against Manfred Weber, the German candidate to lead the EPP into next year’s European elections? While Weber, despite his latest turnabout, embodies the politics of compromise with Viktor Orbán, Stubb stands for a clear demarcation line against the hard right, and describes himself as a natural ally of Emmanuel Macron as he shares his keenness for an agenda of further European integration. With Weber and Stubb, the EPP will be faced in November with a clear political choice. A problem for Stubb could be his well-known record as a super-hawk during the eurozone crisis: his insistence on ironman-like discipline has cost him many friends in the south. The lively and eloquent Stubb is a favourite with journalists and an adept practitioner of 21st-century communications. But some will question whether a northerner proudly espousing the triumph of principle over practice would be the right man to steer a fractious EU through the difficult years and waters ahead.