Friday

24th May 2019

Juncker battles to secure EU nomination

Jean-Claude Juncker - who chaired eurozone meetings for some 10 years and who, until last year, was the EU's longest-serving prime minister - has again said he is keen to be the next European Commission chief.

"I would be in principle willing to run, if the programme and other things are right," the 59-year old Luxembourg politician told German RBB radio on Thursday (9 January).

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

As the potential candidate of the European centre-right, he added that he relishes the idea of a "lively" debate with Martin Schulz, the offficial centre-left candiate and current European Parliament head.

Juncker's nomination remains uncertain, however.

EU centre-right leaders have said they will decide on the name at a European People's Party congress in March in Dublin.

Key to the process is the only woman among the EPP leaders - German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who, according to Der Spiegel magazine, is not so keen on Juncker's return to the European scene because he often criticised Germany's handing of the economic crisis.

Merkel's spokesman has rejected the Spiegel report.

Juncker himself underlined his "friendly" relationship with the German leader, saying he telephoned her twice in the past three weeks.

The current Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, also spoke with Merkel on the phone. "She reassured me that she does not plan to deprive Europe of the former Eurogroup chief's competences," Bettel told L'essentiel newspaper on Wednesday.

But for his part, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who took over from Juncker as Eurogroup chair, is not helping Juncker's campaign.

Dijsselbloem told a late-night talk show on Dutch TV on Monday that Juncker is a "heavy smoker and drinker."

He added that since Juncker left the post, the atmosphere during finance ministers' meetings "has become much more Calvinistic."

Rumours on Juncker's bad habits have been doing the rounds in Brussels for years. But Dijsselbloem is the first ever to break the taboo on the subject.

His remarks prompted Juncker to retort on Wednesday, according to Luxembourg Wort, that "I don't have a drinking problem ... and I don't want to react to comments made in a humoristic talkshow on Dutch television."

Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the French EU commissioner in charge of financial services and the internal market, still believes he might get the centre-right nomination, writes Le Monde.

A book written by the French politician is currently on standby depending on whether the text can describe him as a "candidate" for the EU commission presidency or not.

Barnier may be a member of the cntre-right "EPP" group, but the current French government is not, meaning he lacks a top-level advocate for his bid.

The Rheinische Post has also floated the name of another French politician - Christine Lagarde - for the commission top post.

The nomination process is this time around taking place in a new atmosphere.

Under the Lisbon Treaty the political faction which does best in EU elections in May is to get preference in the top jobs race.

But Merkel last year ruled out any automaticity in the process.

Her position means the final appointments are likely to be settled as in the past - in behind-the-scenes bargaining on a package of powerful posts, including the head of the EU council, the EU foreign affairs chief, the Nato head and the European Parliament chairman.

Aside from political affiliation, the bargain traditionally involves considerations on countries representing the north, south, east and west, as well as the need to have at least one woman in the top phalanx.

EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'

EU leaders praised Theresa May's commitment to deliver an orderly Brexit - while they now brace themselves for an even more eurosceptic British prime minister.

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

Interview

Populists 'could be the opposition parliament needs'

Dutch historian and writer Luuk van Middelaar argues populists could be the new opposition in the next European Parliament and a better reflection of EU public opinion - thus actually reinforcing the body's status.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May announces June 7 resignation date
  2. Ireland votes for EU election and divorce referendum
  3. Report: May to announce resignation plan on Friday
  4. Leading politicians: time for EU to have female leaders
  5. Poll: Finland's Green party to surge in EU elections
  6. High demand for postal voting in Denmark
  7. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  8. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. EU election results to trigger top jobs scramble This WEEK
  2. Don't tell the Dutch - but Timmermans 'won'
  3. EU says goodbye to May with 'respect'
  4. Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?
  5. Italy train row exposes competing views of EU
  6. Dutch socialists on top in first EP election exit poll
  7. No usage data kept for EU parliament's 'Citizens' App'
  8. EU sanctions regime cannot be an 'EU Magnitsky Act'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us