Sunday

21st Oct 2018

Report: Berlin wants Juncker to resign as EU commission chief

  • A power struggle between EU states and the Commission has erupted (Photo: Bundesregierung)

Berlin is piling on pressure for European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to step down, according to the Sunday Times.

The newspaper reported that German chancellor Angela Merkel is unhappy with how Juncker handled the lead up to Britain's exit from the EU as well as his plans to take charge of its exit negotiations.

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An unnamed German minister told the paper that pressure for Juncker "to resign will only become greater and chancellor Merkel will eventually have to deal with this next year".

“Juncker has time and again acted against the common interest and his reaction to the British referendum has been very damaging,” said the source.

The tensions are, in part, rooted in who takes the lead in talks when the UK formally declares its departure by triggering article 50 of the EU treaty.

Both the EU states and the EU commission have been jockeying over the role.

Juncker had attempted to place his top adviser Martin Selmayr as chief negotiator in the talks but was outmanouevered when the EU Council created a Brexit task force led by Belgian diplomat Didier Seeuws.

The appointment is said to have outraged Selmayr, while a commission source told EUobserver that the Council was rushing to take the leading role over the commission.

Juncker is also pushing for a swift UK exit amid calls that delays will prolong uncertainty, while Merkel and some EU states want a more measured approach.

More Europe?

Such moves are part of a much larger debate following the UK referendum on how to reshape the future of the European Union in terms of rebalancing powers between Brussels and the EU capitals.

Juncker, along with EU parliament president Martin Schulz, are pushing for deeper EU integration.

Some see the idea as an effort to ween away power from the capitals, which could feed euroscepticsm however. Both Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble view "more Europe" as a form of intensified cooperation between states and not as a further transfer of power to Brussels.

Slovakia, which now heads the rotating EU presidency, also wants to roll back influence from Brussels and give EU states more say on issues like migration.

In mid-September, the remaining 27 member states will meet at a summit in Bratislava to discuss the future of the European Union.

The summit location in the Slovak capital is not without its own symbolic meaning - such events are typically held in Brussels.

Sturgeon meeting

Merkel has also reportedly said that Juncker has become "part of the problem" and that his recent meeting with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon was provocative.

The majority of Scots had voted to remain in the EU. Sturgeon, within a week of the referendum results, was seen standing with Juncker in Brussels calling for independence.

Although Juncker said the EU commission had no intention to interfere with Scotland's desire to join the EU, he told reporters that it had "won the right to be heard in Brussels."

'Germany does not want Juncker to resign'

Elmar Brok, a senior german MEP, has denied reports that Berlin wanted the commission chief to go. But names of potential replacements - Schulz, Timmermans, Katainen - are doing the rounds.

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The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

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