Friday

30th Oct 2020

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

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

Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study

A new report on gender equality in the EU makes it clear: improved gender equality in decision-making is the main driver of progress in the EU. And most progress so far is due to outliers Sweden, Denmark and France.

Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law

Much still depends on if the German EU presidency is willing to sign up to a strict time limit for member states to decide on possible sanctions in the new rule-of-law conditionality.

MEPs hear clash over occupied Hungarian drama school

The dispute over control of the film and theatre school has generated global support with dozens of internationally recognised artists - including actresses Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren and author Salman Rushdie - supporting the school and its autonomy.

France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder

Muslim NGOs targeted by the France's retaliatory response to the brutal murder of a schoolteacher claim the government is labelling "innocent Muslims as 'Islamists" just to be able to say that they are doing something".

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us