Monday

18th Feb 2019

Juncker wants 'fair deal' for Britain

  • I am no federalist, Juncker says. (Photo: European Peoples Party, EPP)

Future EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has denied being a federalist and said he wants a "fair deal" for Britain on the terms of its EU membership.

Speaking to the British Conservative-dominated ECR group in the European Parliament on Tuesday (8 July), Juncker said he is in favour of a "practical arrangement" with the UK that takes into account their demands.

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 wanted since the very beginning of my campaign to have a fair deal with Britain. Sometimes I'm reading that I was inventing after 25 May this idea of having a fair deal with Britain. I was announcing this on 23 April as one of my five priorities. I was the only candidate advocating for a fair deal with Britain, so don't tell me that I'm inventing this thing now," he said.

British politicians and media have portrayed Juncker as a rabid federalist, with The Sun, a tabloid, calling him the "most dangerous man in Europe."

But Juncker said he is no "arch-villain".

"You can't launch European ambitions without having member states on your side. Nations are not a temporary invention of history, they are forever. So I don't want to be described - as I was - as an arch-federalist. I don't know what this really means. As a representative of a very small nation, I know what nations are about and how important member states really are," Juncker explained.

He went on reassuring his audience that he wants Europe to be "big on big things and small on small," - a recurrent theme with British PM David Cameron, who wants to repatriate powers from Brussels before putting the EU membership to a referendum if he gets re-elected in 2017.

"Local authorities, regions, nations are often better placed in finding solutions to their problems," Juncker said.

Responding to accusations that he is an old face incapable of carrying out reforms, the 59-year old said it's true he has been around for a long time, but pointed out that it was his idea to give Britain an opt-out from the euro back in 1991 when the treaty of Maastricht was negotiated.

"To describe me as a guy who is fiercely anti-British is simply not reflecting the major part of my biography. I was always trying to have fair deals with Britain, I did it in the '90s and I will do it at the beginning of this century," he said.

Even though the ECR group is the third-largest in the European Parliament, Juncker is not relying on their votes next Tuesday when MEPs are set to approve his appointment as commission chief.

Speaking after the meeting, ECR leader Syed Kamall said that "there were many areas where we believe we can work with him if he is confirmed". But he added that because the group does not support the system of "Spitzenkandidaten" - the idea of giving top jobs to people whose pates win the EU elections - they will vote against him.

Taxation

One contentious issue around Juncker's appointment is his role in establishing Luxembourg as a tax haven for multinational corporations.

In his hearings with the Socialist, Green and ECR groups, Juncker tried to portray his experience as PM of Luxembourg as a good background for wanting to fight tax evasion.

"I will be among those who will fight against tax evasion. I know that having been the prime minister of Luxembourg, an overwhelming majority of you consider this not to be a guidebook. I want to tell you that progress made in Europe against tax evasion was always under Luxembourg's presidency," he said.

He noted that he is in favour of a corporate tax base, which "may not be good for some countries, but is good for Europe."

"We should introduce morality in the European tax landscape, so that governments are not victims of tax competition," he said.

For its part, the Financial Times on Wednesday reported that the EU commission has started an inquiry into Luxembourg's tax deals for multinational corporations, creating a potential conflict of interest once Juncker takes up the commission top job.

The probe also includes Ireland and the Netherlands for similar deals with companies of the likes of Apple and Google.

The Luxembourg case revolves around Italian carmaker Fiat and could expand to US online retailer Amazon.

Juncker: Economics commissioner will be a Socialist

Future EU commission chief Juncker has promised the economics commissioner post to a Socialist, as part of a grand coalition-type of deal between the centre-right and centre-left ahead of a European Parliament vote on Tuesday.

Focus

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

British PM Cameron has reached out to Juncker, after having failed to prevent his nomination as European Commission chief.

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

Calls for Tajani's resignation over Slovenia, Croatia row

The European Parliament's Italian president referred to Croatia and Slovenia as former Italian regions at the weekend, sparking outrage. Although Antonio Tajani apologised, somer former leaders and MEPs are now calling for his resignation.

MEPs call on EU countries to deal with Hungary

MEPs who launched a procedure examining the democratic situation in Hungary last year now want member states to step up efforts. The government in Budapest meanwhile accuses MEPs of attacking Hungary over migration.

News in Brief

  1. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  2. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  3. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  4. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  5. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying
  6. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  7. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  8. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump
  2. British MPs condemn Zuckerberg's misrule of Facebook
  3. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  4. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  5. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  6. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  7. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  8. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us