Pledging to tackle the “barbed-wire” mentality that divides Europe, Maros Sefcovic, a Slovak social Democrat and Vice-President of the European Commission, has announced his bid for the presidency of the European Commission.

“We have to get rid of barbed-wire fences in our minds,” the 52-year-old, who is vice-president of the current Commission, told a news conference. He was referring to the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe into east and west during his youth.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the Moscow-educated diplomat, who has worked in Brussels since Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, is seeking the nomination of the EU Parliament’s second biggest party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

The current head of the EU’s executive Commission, Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, will step down next year. His successor must be agreed by leaders of the EU member states following elections to the European Parliament next May.

Earlier this month, German conservative Manfred Weber, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, also announced his candidacy for Juncker’s job.