British Prime Minister David Cameron today (13 June) used what appears to be his strongest argument against the procedure to elect the next Commission President, saying that Jean-Claude Juncker, the leading candidate of the largest party following the European elections, was “nowhere on the ballot”.
Cameron does not want Juncker to get the job as he views him as too much of an old-style federalist who will obstruct his push to reform the European Union and persuade British voters of the merits of staying within the 28-nation bloc.
Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s ties with Brussels, ahead of holding an in/out referendum on the country’s EU membership by 2017, if he wins a national election next year.
While he has made his opposition to Juncker clear, repeatedly saying the job should go to someone more reform-minded, he has largely shied away from referring to Juncker by name.
On Friday, the prime minister warned against the suggestion of some in the European Parliament that the job should go to the candidate put forward by the party which won the most seats. Juncker has the support of the European People’s Party, the largest centre-right political grouping in the parliament.
“It is not an attack on Mr Juncker, an experienced European politician, to say this is nonsense. Most Europeans did not vote in the European Parliament elections. Turnout declined in the majority of member states. Nowhere was Mr Juncker on the ballot paper,” Cameron wrote in an article which his office said would be published in several European newspapers on Friday.
Cameron said that even in Germany, where the concept of the lead candidates was most well publicised, only 15% of voters knew Juncker was in the running.
“He did not visit some member states. Those who voted did so to choose their MEP not the Commission president. Mr Juncker did not stand anywhere and was not elected by anyone,” he said.
EU leaders are expected to decide on their candidate for the presidency of the EU executive – a job with major influence over policy affecting 500 million Europeans – by a summit at the end of this month.
To accept that Juncker had been chosen by European voters would set a dangerous precedent, Cameron said.
“It would politicise the European Commission,” he wrote. “It would be a green light for those who want to breach the EU’s rules by the backdoor. Rules that have been ratified by our national parliaments and laid down in international law.”
Cameron, whose objection to Juncker has put him at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been trying to rally support among other European leaders to block the former Luxembourg prime minister from getting the job.
He held talks in Sweden earlier this week with Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch premier Mark Rutte, and has also called Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
“Now is the time for Europe’s national leaders to have the courage of their convictions by standing up for their place in the EU and what is right for Europe’s future,” Cameron wrote. “Now is the time to propose a candidate who will convince Europe’s voters we are acting upon their concerns.”
According to information obtained by EurActiv, Cameron is warming up to the idea that Juncker would become Commission President, and tries to obtain maximum powers for the British Commissioner Andrew Lansley [read more].
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.
- 26-27 June: EU leaders to meet for the regular summit;
- 15 or 16 July: Possible vote in Parliament for Juncker as Commission President.