The Popular Party loses the general secretariat of the European party to which it belongs for the first time in 23 years. The European People’s Party (EPP) has published this Saturday the list of candidacies for the presidency and vice-presidencies that will be voted on next week at the Rotterdam congress and it follows that the Spanish MEP Antonio López-Istúriz will not be re-elected secretary general.

The PP thus loses what was the main executive position of the EPP, until now the first party in the Eurozone, achieved by its then president, José María Aznar, in 1999 after an agreement with Helmut Kohl on the distribution of positions in the leadership. Alejandro Agag was then appointed secretary general, replaced in turn in 2002 by López-Istúriz, who has managed to remain in the post until now and aspired to continue until 2024.

López-Istúriz’s departure is automatic as the PP has presented the candidacy of Esteban González Pons to one of the 10 vice-presidencies of the EPP, because it is considered incompatible to hold two positions in the leadership. This is the first international decision of the new leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who thus gives González Pons a boost. The Galician in person closed two weeks ago in Santiago de Compostela with the new president of the EPP, the German Manfred Weber, a vice-presidency for Pons with economic powers, including European funds, and relations with Latin America.

Feijóo has opted for this option, even if it means losing the general secretary. This last position was considered strategic in its day by Aznar for being equivalent to that of CEO of the main party in Europe, with the ability to promote positions on matters such as deficit rules or European funds.

In conversation with this newspaper, González Pons relativizes the loss of this position: «The new president will propose a different party model that turns the general secretariat not into a political body, but an administrative one. European powers will be shared between the vice-presidencies. According to the Valencian MEP, “with this new model we will have a very strong position.”

The EPP coordinates the lines to be defended by the heads of government or prime ministers who belong to its political family before the European summits. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is part of the EPP and will attend the congress of the Dutch city, as well as the commissioner with the most economic weight, the Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis.

The perspective of charges was very different a few months ago, as this newspaper published. López-Istúriz aspired not only to continue, but even to occupy the presidency of the party with the support of the then leader, Pablo Casado. For this he had, as sources from the French Republican party confirmed to this newspaper, with sympathy from several parties hostile to the outgoing president, Donald Tusk, being replaced by a German. However, Weber has played his cards strongly in coincidence with the weakening of the PP due to the abrupt departure of Casado. Tusk was also critical of the pact reached with Vox in Castilla y León.

Finally, Weber will be appointed executive president on day 1 and his good relationship with Pons reassures in Genoa.

However, one option would have been to try for a vice presidency and retain the general secretary, arguing that there will be two Germans at the top (in addition to Weber, a vice president), but it has not been possible. Weber has noted that López-Istúriz was disputing him for the presidency and the poor personal relationship between the latter and Pons, both MEPs, has also complicated this alternative for Núñez Feijóo.

The Galician leader thus confirms that González Pons, Deputy Secretary for Institutional Action in Genoa, will also be his strong man in European and international politics.

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