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27/07/2016

Danish PM: EU top job speculation ‘disturbs my work’

EU Elections 2014

Danish PM: EU top job speculation ‘disturbs my work’

Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Poland's president Donald Tusk and Denmark's prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at a ceremony of celebrating Croatia's signing of Accession Treaty, December 2011. [President of the European Council/Flickr]

Ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt denied rumours that she could be offered an EU position, saying the constant speculation was interfering with her work.

On Thursday (19 June), Thorning-Schmidt will head to Berlin to have lunch with Merkel and fly back to Copenhagen later in the day.

The meeting was apparently set up in the beginning of May. Asked by the Jyllands-Posten, a Danish source said that discussing candidates for EU top jobs was not officially part of the programme for the two heads of state.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly opposed that Jean-Claude Juncker, the leading candidate of the largest party following the European elections, should be entitled to become the next President of the European Commission. Cameron worries that Juncker, who believes in an ever-closer EU, would hamper his own bid to reform the UK’s relationship with Europe before an in-out referendum in 2017. Merkel has recently stepped up her verbal support for Juncker.

According to British newspapers, Thorning-Schmidt, who steers a moderate centre-left coalition, could potentially be a unifying figure and attract support from across the bloc.

But on Friday (13 June) Thorning-Schmidt told the tabloid BT that she was getting tired of the rumours.

“It’s very inconvenient. It disturbs my work. I answer the same thing every time people ask. I want to steer Denmark out of the crisis. I don’t want to give this opportunity to the four opposition parties. I don’t want them to experiment with Denmark,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

The Danish prime minister, who has suffered from poor opinion polls ever since she first assumed office in September 2011, has seen her popularity rise on the back of an improving economy and political missteps by her rivals. Her Social Democrats, according to the latest polls, are once again the biggest party and Thorning-Schmidt is on track for reelection in the general elections next year. 

In Denmark, political commentators have for months speculated that Thorning-Schmidt would be offered to replace Herman Van Rompuy as President of the European Council. The very pro-EU Danish prime minister, who almost never mentions the EU in her speeches in her Eurosceptic country, has recently spoken positively about the EU in public.

On Saturday, this led the leader of the populist Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, to say that the Danish government had suddenly become too positive.

“But maybe this is because Thorning-Schmidt’s plan isn’t to stay in Denmark. Maybe she wants a different career path, and if you want a job in the Roman Empire then you probably shouldn’t disagree with Rome,” Thulesen Dahl said. “Dear Helle, I think you should stay and meet the voters in the next election so that they can judge you on your merits,” he added.

Background

The European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.

The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This will make the European elections a de facto race for commission president, politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.

But others have argued that the European parties’ push for their own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.

Timeline

  • 19 June: Thorning-Schmidt to visit Merkel in Berlin
  • 26-27 June: EU Council summit in Brussels
  • Spring 2015 (expected): Danish general elections

Further Reading