Juncker picked to contest race for EC presidency
Former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, a fixture of Brussels politics for the past 25 years, won the backing of Europe's centre-right parties in the race to become European Commission president.
Mr Juncker, who lost office last year after 18 years as prime minister, beat French rival Michel Barnier, the EU's regulation chief, to become the European People's Party (EPP) top candidate for the European Parliament elections in May.
He won the vote at the Congress of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) in Dublin yesterday.
It puts Mr Juncker, 59 and one of the region's most experienced deal brokers, in contention for the EU's most influential job, with oversight of legislation affecting 500 million Europeans.
Juncker won 382 votes from EPP members in Dublin, while 245 voted for his rival. He will now go head-to-head against Social Democrat candidate Martin Schulz and the Liberals' Guy Verhofstadt for the Commission presidency.
Meanwhile, a succession of European leaders have paid tribute to the capacity of the Irish people to endure significant economic hardship over the past five years.
Speaking at EPP conference, leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday heaped praise on Ireland.
Outgoing EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "This was the first country to exit the bailout. Thank you to Enda Kenny. This was due to your leadership, your government, your ministers and the courage of the Irish people," he said.
EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy congratulated the courage of the Irish Government and the Irish people for showing leadership and inspiration to other European countries.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy paid tribute to the capacity of the Irish people to overcome adversity throughout history. Mr Rajoy said the difficulties encountered by the Irish people are behind them.