Tuesday

15th Oct 2019

Juncker declares interest in EU president job

  • Jean-Claude Juncker declares his interest in the post (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker has said he would be willing to be the first president of the European Council, an as-of-yet non-existent post with a hazy job description.

The leader of the Grand Duchy, the smallest EU state bar Malta, told French paper Le Monde that he would do the job if asked.

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

"I have learned that you must never declare yourself a candidate for such a post. You must let others ask you to take it. If I received such a call, I would have no reason to refuse to hear it."

His comments are the first official declaration of interest in the post, which will be created by the Lisbon Treaty, a new set of rules that leaders hope to get in place early next year.

To date most of the speculation has centred on British ex-prime minister Tony Blair, and, to a lesser extent, on other names such as Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende.

The Luxembourg challenge will focus attention once more on exactly what member states expect from the job - either a powerful position that will give Europe a prominent face on the international stage, or a more administrative role. The loose wording in the treaty means it could go either way.

Mr Juncker, who had a public spat with Mr Blair in 2005 over the future financing of the EU, has made no secret that he does not want the former British prime minister to get the job, as recently as last week saying he would "do everything" to make sure a "certain person" did not get the post.

In the Le Monde interview he restricted himself to more general opposition to a Briton becoming EU president.

"I can't really identify any area in which Britain has shown real European inspiration over the past 10 years, apart from a few advances on defence," he said.

He said the person who holds the job should be "someone whose main concern is to serve Europe and to unify it around a virtuous consensus, and who would not pretend to represent it abroad without having ensured its internal unity."

Mr Juncker, the longest serving leader in the EU, is known for his wit, chain-smoking and strong federalist ideas. A fluent French, German and English speaker he in the past has made much of being a middleman between Paris and Berlin, which has allowed him and his country to punch above its weight on the EU stage.

His popularity in both capitals has waned recently, however. French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticised him for not being active enough in his capacity as chairman of the eurozone during the financial crisis and he fell out with both Paris and Berlin over their push to highlight Luxembourg as a mischievous tax haven.

While Mr Juncker articulates the fear many small and medium member states have about an over-arching EU president who would only answer to larger countries, the decision about whose name ultimately emerges will likely depend on Berlin and Paris.

The French president has backed away from his previously strong support of Mr Blair for the post while German chancellor Angela Merkel, while not ruling out Mr Blair, has not actively spoken out in favour of the British politician.

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels at the end of the week. But decisions on this post and the post of EU foreign minister, also to be created by the Lisbon Treaty, are not likely to be taken. Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty must first be completed in the Czech Republic, where a decision on a legal challenge to the treaty is only expected next week (3 November).

EU countries to halt arms sales to Turkey

EU states have agreed to stop arms sales to Turkey over its invasion of Syria, marking a nadir in relations with their Nato ally. In response, Ankara mocked the decision as a "joke".

Nine Catalan separatist leaders given long jail terms

Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over their role in Catalonia's 2017 bid for independence. The possible legal immunity of some MEPs remains unanswered.

EU powerless in new Syrian mayhem

EU foreign ministers are meeting to find a common position on the Turkish invasion in Syria. However, events are evolving quickly, as Kurdish forces asked the Syrian army to protect them.

Hungarian opposition wins Budapest in blow to Orban

Budapest joins Istanbul and Warsaw by having an opposition mayor to a strongman illiberal leader, after a united opposition serves a shock blow across several towns in local elections in Hungary.

Opinion

New Dutch terror bill must not target aid workers

A controversial counterterrorism bill could end up criminalising aid workers in the Netherlands if they enter conflict hotspots when assisting the world's most vulnerable people.

Investigation

EU proposes pesticide ban, but key documents still secret

Time is running out for chlorpyrifos, the pesticide which is a cause of brain damage to human fetuses and newly-born children. The EU Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have both stated approval should not be renewed.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Latest News

  1. EU countries to halt arms sales to Turkey
  2. Nine Catalan separatist leaders given long jail terms
  3. Poland's right-wing ruler wins four more years
  4. EU powerless in new Syrian mayhem
  5. Hungarian opposition wins Budapest in blow to Orban
  6. New Dutch terror bill must not target aid workers
  7. EU proposes pesticide ban, but key documents still secret
  8. Brexit nail-biter and EU nominations This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us