Monday

20th May 2019

Juncker elected centre-right's top EU candidate

  • "I am a rare product," says Juncker (Photo: EPP)

The centre-right European People's Party on Friday (7 March) chose Jean-Claude Juncker, an EU political veteran and former head of the Eurogroup, as its top candidate for the European Commission.

"Experience. Solidarity. Future". This is the slogan the EPP wants to attract voters with in the upcoming EU elections, with Juncker's face as top candidate for all affiliated parties. It doesn't mean Juncker will actually run for seat in the European Parliament.

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

  • U2 singer Bono was the main attraction at the EPP congress (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Nor does it mean that he will automatically get the EU commission top job if the EPP wins most seats in the EU assembly in the May vote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has underlined that there is no "automaticity" in the process. The EU treaty simply says the result of the European Parliament elections should be "taken into account" when EU leaders select the commission chief.

Juncker, who will turn 60 this year and was a contemporary of former commission president Jacques Delors and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl - major figures in the 1980s and 90s - dismissed questions about the need for a "fresher face" in EU politics.

"Was that a serious question or a joke?" he replied in a press conference.

But signs of his tiredness were visible already during his acceptance speech. He got the name of EU commission chief Barroso wrong, calling him Jose Maria instead of Jose Manuel.

"You know I always do that," he quipped.

When asked what he would do if leaders decide to appoint someone else as commission chief even if the EPP wins the elections, Juncker said: "I will be very angry."

He then joked: "I am not at all offended of being considered both for the EU commission and the EU council. I am a rare product."

An EPP source told this website that Juncker is a "no-go" for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who may seek other allies to block him if Juncker were the candidate. The heads of the EU commission and the EU council have to be approved by a qualified majority in the EU council, where bigger states have more votes than smaller ones.

But Juncker is not alone on the British blacklist, so is his Social-Democrat rival, Martin Schulz, currently head of the European Parliament. The only names Cameron would be comfortable with are Denmark's Prime Minister Helle-Thorning Schmidt and Irish PM Enda Kenny.

Schmidt is a Social-Democrat and a woman - which puts her in pole position for a top job - either as EU council president or commission chief. Kenny is EPP, which means he would be selected at the helm of the other institution - according to the British reasoning.

Bono

The highlight of the last day of the EPP congress was much less the election of Juncker than the appearance of U2 lead singer Bono, who also acts as an Irish anti-poverty campaigner.

He said "Irish people were screwed over" by the banks and "bailed out themselves". He praised the centre-right leaders, but also mentioned the Social-Democrat personalia: France's Hollande, Denmark's Thorning-Schmidt, Schulz.

"Europe is a thought, but it has to become a feeling. Treaties are good rulebooks, but they are not enough, we need to care more about each other," he said while looking at Merkel, who was on the same stage, smiling.

Merkel's insistence on treaty changes and on austerity measures have made her a disliked figure in many southern European countries.

EPP manifesto

The EPP congress also adopted a four-page manifesto for the EU elections. It calls for less EU regulation: "We do not want a centralised Europe that deals with every detail of people's lives. We want Europe to be bigger on big things and smaller on small things."

They are pro-freedom of movement, with caveats on social benefits: "We are against social fraud - social benefits for EU citizens should only be available if they have worked in the country they live."

The EPP also wants tighter border security and calls the fight against organised crime, money laundering and corruption as a "top priority for us."

The manifesto also mentions data protection as a "human right", calling for stricter rules to safeguard the privacy of citizens and "increase consumer trust online."

Juncker campaign hits the road

A blue American-style campaign bus – with large photos, the slogan "Juncker for president" and social media handles – was parked in front of the church.

Juncker and Schulz in favour of eurobonds

The two lead candidates of the largest EU political families have a common denominator, even if they admit it's a long-term project: eurobonds.

Magazine

The spitzenkandidaten coup

The year 2014 shall go down as the date the European Parliament snatched away the right to nominate a European Commission president from national governments.

EU leaders to have first talk on bloc's next top jobs

The discussion in Sibiu will focus on the 'how', rather than the 'who', on a successor to Jean-Claude Juncker. EU leaders will also have to decide on Donald Tusk's successor, the next EU's foreign affairs chief, and ECB president.

News in Brief

  1. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  2. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  3. EU reassures US on arms sales
  4. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says
  5. UK cross-party Brexit talks collapse
  6. Climate activists occupy German-Russian gas pipeline
  7. Farage got €515,000 of private perks
  8. French EU commissioner urges Italy not to overspend

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us