23rd Mar 2018


Juncker campaign hits the road

  • Jean-Claude Juncker (c) campaigning in Utrecht (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The two men with whom she was talking are "not that into" politics, but nevertheless Erika van der Weijden was curious enough to ask them what was happening in a central square in Utrecht, the fourth largest city in The Netherlands.

Van der Weijden was sitting on a bench outside the monumental Janskerk church, while inside the building the Dutch Christian-Democratic party was holding a conference on the EU.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Juncker campaign bus (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The main speaker at the event on a sunny Friday afternoon (11 April) was Jean-Claude Juncker. "That's that Belgian guy, isn't it?" Van der Weijden asked one of the attendees who had left the church during the break. "From Luxembourg, actually," came the reply.

Juncker was visiting Utrecht as part of his campaign to become the next president of the European Commission.

The campaign represents a novelty for the former Luxembourg prime minister but also for the EU as a whole.

For the first time, the result of the European Parliament elections, taking place across the 28-state bloc next month, should be "taken into account" when the next commission president is chosen.

With about six weeks until the vote, the campaigning is just beginning to heat up. 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.

Van der Weijden later said she had a brief conversation with Juncker. "He said this was a great town," she said, adding "but I'm not sure who I will vote for."

In any case, Van der Weijden will not be able to vote for the former head of the Eurogroup. Juncker is not on any ballot, nor will he be a member of the EU parliament if he fails to acquire the leadership of the commission.

"I don't want to become a member of the European Parliament, I want to be appointed president of the commission," Juncker told this website.

It is unclear whether Juncker's candidacy will matter much to Dutch voters and whether his candidacy will secure votes for the country's Christian-Democrat party, which belongs to the centre-right EPP political group.

"I am happy that Juncker is here to show that candidates for the presidency of the Commission are humans of flesh and blood, with certain ideas and visions about Europe," says MEP Esther de Lange, who leads the campaign for the Christian-Democrat party (CDA).

"But this election campaign is a Dutch campaign and CDA will provide seats for CDA."

Her colleague Wim van de Camp is more confident about the potential "Juncker-effect".

"I think we will win five seats. And one of them will be thanks to Juncker," says Van de Camp, who is third on the party list. CDA currently has five MEPs.

If Van de Camp's prediction is correct, then the fifth candidate on the CDA list, Dirk Gotink, will be elected because of Juncker. Gotink was also present at the conference but declined to comment.

Juncker's main rival for the top post is socialist candidate Martin Schulz. He is also "expected to visit the Netherlands and a number of options are currently being discussed", said a Party of European Socialists' press officer in an emailed statement.

Elsewhere on the square, a group of international relations students was wondering what the conference might be about.

They had peeked inside, but decided not to go in, "because the meeting didn't seem public". Also, they had just had an exam on European politics, and "weren't in the mood" to hear more on the subject.

Such an attitude might herald a low voter turnout in the Netherlands, a problem that Juncker recognizes.

"What is important now is that we deliver the greatest efforts possible in order to regain the confidence of the European citizens, because this confidence is vanishing. Only a blind guy doesn't see that the confidence is vanishing," he told EUobserver.

In any event though, Juncker's speech was heard only by party members and other invitees, and not by many local residents of Utrecht. Many seats in the church remained unfilled.


When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.


Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  2. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  3. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  4. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  5. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  6. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica
  7. Russian diplomats risk EU expulsions over UK attack
  8. Three presidents should attend Bosnia memorial

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections