Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Juncker elected: promises more social EU, more political commission

  • Juncker - elected European Commission president in Strasbourg on Tuesday (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Jean-Claude Juncker was elected European Commission President on Tuesday (15 July) after promising a more social Europe and paying tribute to the major integrationist politicians of the previous generation.

The former Luxembourg PM, who has been on and around the EU stage for the last two decades, received 422 votes, easily surpassing the minimum 376 needed. Of the 729 MEPs that took part, 250 voted against him, 47 abstained and 10 votes were void.

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

In a 50-minute speech before the ballot, the centre-right politician said he wanted the European Commission to be "very political" and indicated he will try and revive the power of the institution - seen as sidelined after member states handled the long-running economic crisis.

He pledged to revive the "community method" - whereby the EU commission is the driver of EU law-making and strongly differentiated himself with the outgoing commission - which is associated with austerity-flavoured policies - by giving major focus to social issues in his speech.

"You can't achieve competitiveness by getting rid of social security," he said, noting that the "internal market is not more important than social affairs."

He pledged to use €300bn over the next three years for projects that focus on energy, infrastructure, and digital issues.

Other promises include making a lobbyist register obligatory, making documents around a controversial EU-US trade agreement public, and putting an end to the EU dealing with "every tiny problem".

He spoke of the eurozone eventually having its own budget and said the single currency area should be "represented by one single chair, one single office". But he said the stability and growth pact - the rules underpinning the euro - will not be changed.

He also promised to tackle "social dumping", but to leave free movement of people rules intact. He will work for a common asylum policy, and indicated there will be no new EU member states under his watch.

No mention of Barroso

Juncker - who spoke first in French, then German (the "language of the world champions"), and then English - received the greatest applause from MEPs for a strong defence of the euro and for pledging to work for more solidarity between north and south on how to tackle migration.

Ignoring current EU leaders - most notably 10-year commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who got no mention in the speech - he reached back in time to the 1980s and 1990s for inspirational politicians.

He singled out Jacques Delors, Francois Mitterand, and Helmut Kohl - the commission president, French, and German leaders, respectively - who presided over a dynamic integrationist period in EU history - for praise.

"His work will inspire me," he said of Delors. He said all three were "patient, courageous and determined."

More power to MEPs

Tuesday's vote marks the culmination of a personal journey for Juncker which started in Spring in Dublin when he was nominated to be the centre-right's top candidate heading into the May EU vote.

But it also represents a marked power shift for the European Parliament, which, through wily political manouvering over the past year, has removed the EU leaders' perogative to nominate the EU commission president.

Juncker came to the post because his group, the centre-right EPP, won the most votes in the European election. EU leaders tried to fight the process but conceded defeat soon after the May vote.

Acknowleging the process, Juncker said that this parliament is the first to "really elect" the commission president.

"You have given full meaning to these elections," he added, with the new system now set in the EU's political and institutional landscape.

EP to vote down commission with too few women

EU parliament chief Schulz has warned national governments his institution will reject the incoming college of commissioners if there are not enough women in it.

Magazine

The spitzenkandidaten coup

The year 2014 shall go down as the date the European Parliament snatched away the right to nominate a European Commission president from national governments.

Juncker urged to revive 'Social Europe' model

The ‘Social Europe’ model must be revived if the EU is to avoid lumbering itself with low social mobility and other economic millstones, according to a new report.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

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”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us