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German Greens won't back aspiring EU head who woos far right

BERLIN (AP) — A leading candidate for Germany's left-leaning Greens said Thursday that his party won't back any candidate for president of the European Union's executive branch who relies on support from the far right.

Populist and far-right parties critical of the EU are expected to make gains in the European parliamentary elections, which are being held in the 28 member countries from May 23-26. Sven Giegold, a German lawmaker in the European Parliament, said if the Greens' own candidate for president of the EU's executive commission fails to win sufficient support, which is likely, the party would seek to form "a clear pro-European majority" in the bloc's legislature together with other mainstream factions.

"We won't back anyone who allows themselves to be supported by the far right," Giegold told reporters in Berlin. The comment was directed toward the center-right European People's Party and its leading candidate, Manfred Weber, who is hoping to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.

The Greens have polled strongly in Germany in recent weeks amid growing concern about climate change — one of the party's key campaign topics — and are on course to send more than a dozen lawmakers to Brussels. Their bloc in the legislature could potentially act as kingmaker when the European Parliament elects the Commission president.

Giegold said the Greens won't try to woo voters from the far-right Alternative for Germany party ahead of the EU election, suggesting that would be futile. "I think the best remedy (for populism) is reforms in Europe that solve problems and clarity when it comes to fundamental values," he said. "Whoever talks about people as if they are dirt or sweepingly denigrates them has simply left the basis of our society."

Asked about the Green mayor in southwestern Tuebingen, Boris Palmer, who recently complained on Facebook about an ad for the German rail company Deutsche Bahn that lacked white men, Giegold said he didn't speak for the party.

"(Palmer) speaks for nobody but himself. And unfortunately, we can't kick him out, because that's effectively impossible within the framework of Germany's party law," he said.

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