Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has officially declared his candidacy to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the president of the European Commission,  becoming the second lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

With the European Parliament elections only nine months away, questions still remain about who will be the likely successor to Juncker. Stubb’s announcement ahead of a November 7-8 meeting in Helsinki where the EPP will choose its lead candidate.

The EPP’s leader, Manfred Weber, has already announced his candidacy ahead of next month’s gathering in Finland.

Stubb, who also serves as vice- president at the European Investment Bank (EIB), has described himself as a “pro-European” who had decided to run to defend European values.

“It is time to rally around our cause for a strong Europe. This means mitigating unnecessary divisions between East and West, North and South. We must be better at highlighting what unites us instead of what differentiates us,” he wrote to the letter. Stubb has launched his candidacy putting already forward his slogan, “welcome to the next generation of Europe,” Stubb said when making the announcement.

Prior to his current position with the EIB, Stubb has served as prime minister, as well as the finance and foreign minister of Finland. Stubb is seen as less conservative than Weber and openly opposes against the populist wing of the EPP that includes Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Italy’s Matteo Salvini.  

Stubb is a part of the EPP faction that sees no future in the party for right-wing populists who side with Orban, Salvini, or Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“Our ideological DNA is based on respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights,” Stubb said in his letter that officially announced his candidacy.

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