Juncker: The veteran EU insider loathed by Britain

  
Jean-Claude Juncker's campaign tour bus [Photo: European People's Party/Flickr]
Jean-Claude Juncker's campaign tour bus. [European People's Party/Flickr]

Jean-Claude Juncker, named on Friday as the next head of the European Commission, is a veteran EU insider and arch-pragmatist with a love of a drink and a dry sense of humour.

The former prime minister of Luxembourg faced down fierce opposition from Britain to secure support from other European leaders to lead the EU's executive arm. 

Friday's EU summit was a fractious affair, as British Prime Minister David Cameron forced an unprecedented vote on Juncker's nomination.

"He is not the right person to take this organisation forward," Cameron insisted on Friday, after weeks of arguing that Juncker is too much of a federalist for the job and won't bring much-needed reform.

Several European countries initially agreed with Cameron, but have come round to the idea of a Juncker presidency.

Juncker, the son of a metal worker, led Luxembourg for 19 years, and made his mark in Brussels during the eurozone crisis when he was head of the eurogroup of finance ministers for eight years up to 2013.

The 59-year-old helped steer the single currency bloc through a debt crisis that nearly wrecked it, playing a key role in negotiating the hardline programmes imposed in return for EU and International Monetary Fund debt bailouts in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.

But he also backed a change of tack, to focus more on growth, once the crisis eased in late 2012.

Juncker was also known for his ability to reconcile the often sharply differing views of France and Germany, the bloc's top two economies.

"When I want to speak in French, I think in German; when I want to speak in German, I think in French, with the result that I am totally incomprehensible," he once joked.

He has "two fatal flaws – he has an opinion and he is not afraid to share it", said one European official.

Juncker was backed for the Commission post by the centre-right European People's Party, the largest single group in the new assembly, allowing its candidate to claim the Commission job by right.

But David Cameron dislikes that system, and fears that Juncker is unlikely to promote reforms which could convince British voters to remain inside the EU. The British Prime Minister has vowed to hold a referendum on Britain's membership in 2017 if he wins next year's general election.

Juncker was born in 1954 in a Europe still struggling to rise from the wreckage of World War II, when his father was press-ganged into Germany's Wermacht.

Juncker senior was a strong influence on his son, not least for his experiences as a metal worker and union member.

A smoker and a lover of life's finer things – particularly cognac – Juncker holds firmly to the political right.

But true to his form as a pragmatic operator, he is suspicious of the idea that free market economics can solve all problems.

"Juncker, he is the most socialist Christian Democrat there is," longtime Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit once said of his longstanding foe.

But perhaps the biggest test of his political flexibility will be whether he can work with Britain in the aftermath of such a public row.

Advertising

Comments

bettysenior's picture

Juncher got in through a lot of horse trading behind closed doors as usual and where to get the backing of most of the EU28, promises were made that senior officials will get the top jobs (or the jobs that each country wanted for their own self-interest - nothing changed there then). That's all that happened and democracy and the people can go to hell. But who would vote for an EU where,
1. There is no democracy for the 500 million EU people
2. No accountability to the people
3. Limitless taxpayer's money pumped in and squandered
4. The books have never been signed off by auditors
5. UK NHS decimated with millions upon millions of UK immigrants using our free health service that will ultimately destroy it - no other EU nation has this and an overriding magnet compared to other EU countries.
6. Constant secret meetings behind closed doors for the TTIP between EU politicians and US politicians and when passed the mighty corporation will control trade through even more secrecy with secret courts to determine that they are entitled to a minimum profit if the do not obtain it the usual way.
7. With the TTIP in place corporations will be able to override sovereign laws and sue the people's governments for even more financial gain without any redress. Meaning that the people will pay even higher prices for goods and services and where this so-called free trade agreement is more to control trade by the iron fist of the corporation than to bring prices down - In other words a greater monopoly and only the rich and powerful will benefit. Read up on the TTIP if you do not believe that this is the case.
8. The UK's trade percentage wise with the EU prior to the UK joining has not gone up to this present day according to recent research ( The Civitas Report) - so no % increase in trade since we joined and where this red herring that we need to be in the EU for trade is totally false. Indeed if that was the case why hasn't our trade with the EU gone up percentage wise? No, we don't need to be in the EU and where they buy more from us that the UK buys from them - are they going to stop doing this and shoot themselves in the foot - I don't think so.
9. Constant overriding of the real wishes of the people of the EU, not the politicians. The list goes on and on and on.

http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-european-uni...

Time to definitely come out as there is no financial or economic benefit in staying in. Indeed it is impoverishing the UK, based on all indicators and will continue to damage the future of the British nation until it is totally on its knees and where this is only a couple of decades away, the way things are going.

ge041075's picture

I wonder if people who make such comments have ever left UK once. Your image of UK compared to continual Europe is funny far from the reality. Let me comment quickly:
1. There are European elections. Democracy seems to be possible in big multicultural countries like US.
2. The European Parliament is accountable to the people. It should be stronger. But most people in UK don’t like this.
3. EU Budget is fairly limited, especially compared to the US Administration. And UK managed to keep limiting fairly low. Thanks to Thatcher.
4. Who told you that? The books are signed off by national and European auditors.
5. UK NHS does not act as magnet. What a joke. That’s hilarious. NHS has not all a good reputation in Europe. Only British think that. Health care is free also in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Malta and the Nordic countries as well. And there you can choose your GP unlike in UK. That seems crazy for a liberal country like UK that people cannot even choose their doctor. And in most of Europe you don’t need to wait several months to get an appointment with a specialist. Why do you think that many English with chronically illness move to France or Belgium? They want to wait 9 months every time they need to see a specialist. Finally are aware that many retired English move to France, Spain, Portugal and Malta? And they heavily benefit from the health care system there. In Malta , nearly a third of the patients are from UK.
Your problem with NHS is national. And I think the immigrant you are referring to are from the commonwealth.
6. I hate the constant secret meetings behind closed doors. That’s called the European Council. That’s exactly what Cameron wants to strengthen. If you dislike the secret meetings you should be in favour of more power to the European Parliament which is more transparent and democratic.
7. I don’t like the TTIP (supported by Cameron by the way) either. UK has strong responsibility for the liberal views of the EC. That’s Thatcher heritage. Open market, competition and privatization. Take the train from Brighton to Bournemouth and you will quickly understand how “great” privatization/competition is. Free trade doctrine is good, especially for China (but probably not for the Chinese population).
8. The UK trade policy is suffers because of your national policy. First Thatcher destroyed your industry. That’s why you are now unable to compete with Germany. And trust me the consequences will last for longs. Just look at the automotive industry. Europeans will still buy UK products of course, but only if they comply with the EU legislation. And you won’t have say on those. Ask what Norway and Switzerland think of it. Do you know why the City is pro-European? UK is the keenest country to regulate the financial sector and this is good. Unfortunately, Cameron failed to convince the European Council, even though the European Parliament was supporting Cameron’s view.
9. Don’t forget that MEPs are elected by the people and they are the one voted for Junker. I would have preferred someone else but I accept it. It is called democracy.
To conclude, I agree that UK should leave the EU. But NOT for the reason you are mentioning. Don’t blame the EU because you have an incapable political elite. Don’t fight against the EU parliament if you don’t like the European Council. Don’t blame Europe because Cameron is too weak to influence the EU agenda. The only true reason to leave Europe is that UK has different political views than the majority of Europe. That’s OK but don’t blame others. I fear that UKIP won mostly because of immigration and the so-called social security threat. I understand that they want the expat Spanish workforce out of UK (they say it will be “good” for you Economy) and old the retired people back in England (if they are not EU citizen anymore they lose the right to live in Europe). I am looking forward to see the mess but it is your choice. It has to be respected. I hope you will leave the EU quickly and somehow regain some political weight.

bettysenior's picture

oop's big mistake

Juncher got in through a lot of horse trading behind closed doors as usual and where to get the backing of most of the EU28, promises were made that senior officials will get the top jobs (or the jobs that each country wanted for their own self-interest - nothing changed there then). That's all that happened and democracy and the people can go to hell. But who would vote for an EU where,
1. There is no democracy for the 500 million EU people
2. No accountability to the people
3. Limitless taxpayer's money pumped in and squandered
4. Books that have never been signed off by auditors in its whole history
5. UK NHS decimated with millions upon millions of UK immigrants using our free health service that will ultimately destroy it - no other EU nation has this and an overriding magnet compared to other EU countries.
6. Constant secret meetings behind closed doors for the TTIP between EU politicians and US politicians and when passed the mighty corporation will control trade through even more secrecy with secret courts to determine that they are entitled to a minimum profit if the do not obtain it the usual way.
7. With the TTIP in place corporations will be able to override sovereign laws and sue the people's governments for even more financial gain without any redress. Meaning that the people will pay even higher prices for goods and services and where this so-called free trade agreement is more to control trade by the iron fist of the corporation than to bring prices down - In other words a greater monopoly and only the rich and powerful will benefit. Read up on the TTIP if you do not believe that this is the case.
8. The UK's trade percentage wise with the EU prior to the UK joining has not gone up to this present day according to recent research ( The Civitas Report) - so no % increase in trade since we joined and where this red herring that we need to be in the EU for trade is totally false. Indeed if that was the case why hasn't our trade with the EU gone up percentage wise? No, we don't need to be in the EU and where the UK buys more from them than they buy from the UK - are they going to stop doing this and shoot themselves in the foot - I don't think so.
9. Constant overriding of the real wishes of the people of the EU, not the politicians. The list goes on and on and on.

http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-european-uni...

Time to definitely come out as there is no financial or economic benefit in staying in. Indeed it is impoverishing the UK, based on all indicators and will continue to damage the future of the British nation until it is totally on its knees and where this is only a couple of decades away, the way things are going.

Mike Parr's picture

A large number of assertions and, frankly, blathering bullshit. The accounts have been signed off, any problems or qualifications relate to Member States - not to the EC. "Taxpayer money pumped in and squandered" what 100% of it was squandred? Point 5 is utter cock - a simple lie. TTIP is dead in the water. The Thatcher-bitch destroyed UK industry - a reason why the UK exports have not risen. Still I am sure these subtleties escape you.

Euractive ran an article from some people showing that the Uk has a net benefit from membership _ I guess you did not read that since you suffer from congenital cognitive dissonance - although your intellect may be a bit too small to understand long words like these.

GeorgeMc's picture

My word we have had a bad day. I suppose that means you have to take it out on someone. Still the wife and dog will be relieved.

I have read the post by Betty and while I might disagree with some of it, I can find no reason for you to treat her in such a rude, arrogant and abusive manner. Would you speak to her in such a bullying condescending manner face to face? Not everyone who posts on here has had the benefit of a good education. That however does not invalidate their opinions.

As someone who has to express himself by continually referring to Camoron, sh(city), Tory vermin and Thatcher cow, could I suggest a broadening of the vocabulary and an expressive writing course.

Pages

EurActors