Thursday

20th Feb 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day 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.

Schinas spars with MEPs over migration job title

A number of MEPs pressed Margaritis Schinas to drop the "Protecting the European Way of Life" title of his portfolio, which deals with migration. But Schinas refused, claiming it needs protecting from terrorists and populists. He failed to convince.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us