Tuesday

24th May 2016

Focus

Juncker chosen for EU commission job, Cameron defeated

  • The 59-year old still has to be elected into office by MEPs (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU leaders on Friday (27 June) nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to be European Commission president, simultaneously doling out a major diplomatic defeat for London and handing a large chunk of power to the European Parliament.

"Decision made. The European Council proposes Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission," EU council president Herman Van Rompuy tweeted during the meeting.

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The decision was taken by a vote – a first for an EU summit – after British PM David Cameron led a strong campaign against the Luxembourger, opposing both the way the 59-year-old came to be nominated, as well as the man – who he has called the "ultimate Brussels insider" – himself.

The nature of Cameron's pre-summit rhetoric and his refusal to take some kind of trade-off for the UK in return for accepting Juncker saw EU leaders have a show of hands on the issue.

Only Hungary's Viktor Orban joined Cameron in voting no.

The decision represents a diplomatic defeat for Cameron – who started the campaign convinced he would win – but also a new shift in the balance of power in the EU capital, to the European Parliament's gain.

Juncker's appointment came on the back of a novel process pushed through by MEPs in which they insisted the lead candidate of the party winning the May EU vote – in this case Juncker for the centre-right EPP – should be nominated for the commission presidency by EU leaders.

Grumbling that MEPs were taking an over-expansive interpretation of the treaty, EU leaders went half-heartedly along with the idea.

However, they were soon overtaken by events on the ground as the various Spitzenkandidaten started taking part in TV debates and touring member states as commission candidates.

For a while it looked like German chancellor Angela Merkel – not a huge fan of Juncker – would stop the process, but a backlash by domestic press saw her reiterate her support.

The Luxembourger and former head of the eurogroup, who has maintained a media blackout over recent weeks, still has to be elected into office by a majority in the EP (376 out of 751 MEPs), with the vote to take place on 16 July.

EU leaders are then to meet later that same day to decide on the post of EU foreign policy chief and EU Council president.

If Juncker makes it through parliament, it will represent the first time in EU history that the commission president has not been chosen by EU leaders.

It would also likely strengthen the Spitzenkandidate process for 2019, the next EU vote.

While campaigning for the post Juncker admitted that few voters would know his name and suggested that the next time round, political groups would have to choose their candidates around two years ahead, instead of just a few months before ballot day.

Meanwhile, Socialist MEP Richard Corbett, recently remarked that the process' first outing had showed political groups that they should choose better quality candidates next time round, with few convinced that Juncker is the best person for the job.

Cameron, for his part, told his counterparts they "could live to regret the new process for choosing the commission president".

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