Slovak Maros Sefcovic, a deputy head at the European Union’s executive arm responsible for energy, announced on Monday his bid for the bloc’s top job, promising to try and unite Europe.
Sefcovic, a 52-year-old social democrat, is a Moscow-educated diplomat and has worked in Brussels since 2004. He is seeking the nomination of the EU parliament’s second biggest party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
Sefcovic said during his announcement that politicians needed to work to understand why more Europeans were responding to far-right messages, and seek to unite the states in the east, west, north and south of the bloc.
“We have to get rid of barbed-wire fences in our minds,” Sefcovic said, responding to his youth behind the Iron Curtain.
The current head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker will step down next year. His successor must be agreed by leaders of European Union member states following elections to the European Parliament next May.
Their nominee must also be confirmed by EU lawmakers before the new commission president takes over in November 2019.
Germany’s conservative Manfred Weber, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced his bid for the nomination of the European People’s Party, the EU’s largest, earlier this month.
Opinion polls suggest far-right parties will gain ground in the 2019 vote, in which French President Emmanuel Macron has cast himself as a standard-bearer for pro-EU, liberal forces.