Monday 29 December 2014

Kenny plays down move to Brussels

Daniel McConnell and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 07/03/2014 | 11:43

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has played down speculation linking him with a move to Brussels later this year.

Mr Kenny's name is being mentioned in connection with the EU's two most powerful positions.

The Taoiseach is hosting a major conference of Fine Gael's grouping in Brussels, the European People's Party, in Dublin's National Convention Centre.

The EPP Congress will today elect a nominee for the candidate of European Commission President - the head of the EU's policy-making body.

Mr Kenny is regarded as still being in contention to be offered the post of European Council President - the chairman of the group of EU prime ministers.

But the Taoiseach is saying he wants to stay put to lead Fine Gael into the next general election.

"I have got a mandate that is not fulfilled yet, we have a big job at hand here to build on the progress already made," he told Independent.ie.

Addressing the conference, Mr Kenny also said Fine Gael will continue to be at the heart of Europe.

He introduced his party's six European election candidates to the crowd, bringing them all up on to the stage.

The EPP will be choosing between France's European Commissioner Michel Barnier and former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker to become its leader for the European elections.

"These are secret elections. We have two candidates Michel Barnier and Jean Claude Junker who will make their pitch today. It is a pretty serious business, a serious election. The Presidency of the Commission is a formidable challenge given the changes occurring in Europe and given the requirement to build a Europe that is fit for purpose."

When asked if he was still ruling himself out of contention for a post in Europe, Mr Kenny said: "There are two candidates left in this race. Delegates are going to vote the same as they do at every branch meeting across the country."

The crisis in Ukraine will dominate today's gathering.

"I'm sure there will be references made to Ukraine during contributions today. A collective statement came from the European Council yesterday," Mr Kenny said.

Later today, Mr Kenny will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Government Buildings.

The Taoiseach will discuss the possibility of getting a deal from Europe on Ireland's bank debt.

Mr Kenny will also discuss Ukraine and the priorities for the EU after the European elections in May.

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