Friday

6th Dec 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 20 years of archives. 30-day 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.

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

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

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  2. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  3. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  4. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  5. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  6. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate
  7. Development to fuel change
  8. Does EU have role in stopping backsliding in Georgia?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us