- neo-liberal finance expert Friedrich Merz (CDU, without support in his own party),
- MEP Elmar Brok (CDU, little known to the public),
- MEP Martin Schulz (SPD, unlikely after losing the European Elections),
- interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble (with no interest to go to Brussels)
- economic sherpa Peter Hinze (CDU, little known to the public).
All of these candidates would not find a lot of support by the public and cause a further distance of the citizens towards the European institutions. And I doubt whether they could negotiate with a Baroness Ashton on the same level.
The idea to nominate former finance minister Peer Steinbrück (SPD), put forward by MEP Jo Leinen (SPD), is a good option for both political competence and public acceptancy. Steinbrück has been on of the central figures in the financial crisis and earned respect of politicians all over Europe for his far-sighted positions. In Germany itself, Steinbrück was probably the SPD minister closest to Angela Merkel. The finance expert would be one of the first to hope for a nomination by the chancellor. And he is not only respected in politics but also viewed as an honest broker by the German public. Steinbrück speaks out what he thinks and I perceive him to care about future generations as much as for current unemployment figures.
The Commission post would fit Steinbrück's CV pretty well. He was economy and finance minister in several German states, then became minister president for the state of North-Rhine Westfalia in 2002. When his state government was voted out of office in 2005, Steinbrück didn't have to wait long to get his next job. The national elections in the same year brought him to the post of finance minister in Germany. Becoming European commissioner now seems like the next possible step in a steep political career.
The question remains, what portfolio Steinbrück would get. A major industrial country, Germany is pressing for the portfolios industry, economics and finance, monetary affairs or trade. But I could also imagine him being the head of the common market portfolio and of competition policy - it fits very well given his watchdog role as a finance minister in Germany.