3 october 2018, stubb thumping

Given that the european people's party has won every european election since 1994, it's highly likely that whoever emerges as candidate from their congress in helsinki on 8 november will go on to become the next commission president, which, whatever anyone says, is still europe's top job. Home advantage goes to alex stubb. He gets my vote, or would if I had one (I'm not a voting member of the epp or even perhaps by then an eu citizen). I met the marvellous mr stubb (see 10 november 2011, the europeans are coming) back when I was organising seminar sessions at the european central bank and he was a mere mep. Together with then-president jean claude trichet we had a rather marvellous lunch beforehand. He went on to become finland's foreign and then prime minister. He was speaking about enlargement, then a hot topic and was eloquent, confident, sensible and very open to discussion. Beforehand he was probing and challenging but polite and indeed charming. He was the very definition of charismatic and would, I think, be a fantastic president. Not just in temperament, but also a great fit politically, coming from the left of europe's centre-right party in what is still, thankfully, an inherently consensus-driven polity. More than being competent and clever, he has the potential to be inspiring and is capable of giving europe verve and drive - which we can only hope is not something europe's leaders will hold against him. Aside manfred webber (the other leading epp candidate, who has being a german against him), stubb's main obstacle may be the unwillingness of the presidents and prime-ministers to allow the parliament to remove their right to select the president, as happened last time round with their so-called spitzenkandidat, whereby they all agreed that they would all veto anyone but the candidate of the party that won the election - the first solid move towards a european polity. It's hard to reverse progress though, so the smart money will stay on whoever emerges victorious in helsinki. Like America needed Obama in 2008, europe needs stubb !