Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Juncker breaks tradition with support for Macron

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Monday (24 April) that the commission is not interfering in the French presidential campaign, despite Jean-Claude Juncker's public endorsement of Emmanuel Macron.

On Sunday, Schinas tweeted that Juncker had “congratulated” Macron with his success at the first round of France's presidential election, and “wished him good luck” for the second round.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Macron (r) last month met German chancellor Merkel, who also congratulated him with moving on to the second round (Photo: Emmanuel Macron/Twitter)

The pro-EU Macron received 23.75 percent of the votes, and will now go head-to-head with anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen, who got 21.53 percent.

Juncker's congratulatory remarks were unprecedented, and raised questions during Monday's daily EU press conference.

Why did Juncker support a candidate in a member state election when the electoral process is not yet over? Normally, the commission does not provide comments on ongoing elections.

Schinas said that France is “one of the countries which incarnates and symbolises those values on which European integration is based”, and that Juncker congratulated Macron because “he is the candidate who represents those values”.

But that is not what Schinas said last year when the European Commission was asked to comment on the Austrian presidential election, which also take place over two rounds.

There are striking similarities between the two elections – although the Austrian president has a mostly ceremonial function, the French presidency is one of the most powerful posts in Europe.

Just like in France, the first round in Austria wiped out the candidates of the two traditional centre-left and centre-right parties, and prepared the country for a choice between a pro-EU independent candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, and an anti-EU far right candidate, Norbert Hofer.

However, on the day after the first round of the Austrian election, Schinas stuck to the traditional commission line of not commenting before the final vote.

“We have no comment,” Schinas said on 25 April 2016 in reference to Austria.

On Monday, however, Schinas said “the stakes were high, the stakes were known, the choice was a fundamental one”.

“Really the choice was between defending what Europe represents and another option which aims to destroy Europe,” he said. “So it's a simple choice and our president therefore thought it would be worthwhile congratulating the candidate who defended the pro-European option.”

“There were not many choices. The choice was rather simple, straightforward. Those who defended what Europe stands for, and those who simply want to destroy Europe,” said the spokesman, despite the fact that French voters could choose between 11 candidates, including several other pro-EU candidates.

When challenged on his comments that there were not “many choices”, Schinas answered: “Many candidates, one choice.”

But when taking the narrow pro- or anti-EU view, the results are not as clear a victory for the EU as is currently being framed.

In addition to Le Pen's second place, a sizeable part of the voters supported radical left eurosceptic candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

In fact, anti-EU or eurosceptic candidates - sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the self-proclaimed "Frexit" candidate Francois Asselineau, and Trotskyists Nathalie Artaud and Philippe Poutou - receiving 48.5 percent of the votes.

Schinas was also asked if Juncker would now give his support to a pro-EU party in June's general elections in the United Kingdom.

“No, he will not,” said Schinas. “This is not for us, this is not for Brussels, this is not for the commission, this is not for anyone but the sovereign British people.”

One other argument that Schinas gave was that Juncker was not the only politician to speak out.

“I'm sure that if the president would have not congratulated yesterday's winner, today the discussion in this press room would have been: why you are the only ones not to congratulate when everybody else did,” said Schinas.

But, for example, German chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron “all the best” through her spokesman, only after Juncker's statement was made public.

Analysis

French election run-off: Far right vs. EU

The run-off of the French presidential election will pit a pro-EU social-liberal Macron against anti-EU Marine Le Pen. Macron is likely to win but far-right support is higher than ever.

Voters 'change face' of French politics

Newcomer Macron and far-right leader Le Pen qualified for the presidential election run-off in a vote that pushed aside the two main traditional parties.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

Salvini invokes God and Russia on Poland trip

Orthodox values, opposition to EU institutions, and friendship with Russia should form the backbone of a new Italian-Polish league, Italy's Matteo Salvini has said.

Italy and Poland in talks on anti-EU league

Poland and Italy's right-wing rulers are to cement their "special relations" in Warsaw, in what could make Salvini's anti-EU group a major force in the EP.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us