Finland to nominate Katainen as EU commissioner on Thursday

Jyrki Katainen, Finland's Prime Minister and leader of the National Coalition party, gestures while delivering his farewell speech at the party's congress in Lahti, June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland will nominate Jyrki Katainen, who stepped down as prime minister last month to seek a high-level European post, to become an EU commissioner on Thursday, new premier Alexander Stubb said. Katainen will replace Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, as Finland's representative at the European Commission. He could seek Rehn's post, one of the most powerful roles in the EU, but would face stiff competition, with former French finance minister Pierre Moscovici and the Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup, seen as potential candidates. Jean-Claude Juncker, president-designate of the Commission, the EU's executive arm, has said that as he himself is a conservative, the economic and monetary affairs post is likely to go to a socialist, which would rule out Katainen. Stubb, however, said on Wednesday that that was not a done deal, and depended on who would be the next head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers. "If the Eurogroup head is a social democrat, then the economics commissioner could come from EPP," Stubb told reporters. EPP refers to a group of conservative parties in the EU. Stubb said he expected Katainen, who is also a former finance minister, would get an important portfolio related to economics at the Commission, and mentioned internal markets, competition, foreign trade, energy or economics as possible options. "I believe he will get a good portfolio, related to economics," he added. Each of the 28 EU countries hold one post in the Commission. The current European Commission expires at the end of October. Rehn has been the EU's top economic official for the past four years. He stepped down on July 1 after winning a seat in the European Parliament. Katainen is expected to replace him temporarily starting later this month until the end of October. (Reporting by Sakari Suoninen; Editing by Susan Fenton)