Merkel praises Danish PM, hints at outsider for EU Council job

Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Brussels, February 2013 [European Council/Flickr]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel heaped praise on Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Thursday (19 June) and said there was no reason why the next president of the European Council should not come from a non-eurozone country such as Denmark.

British officials have mentioned Thorning-Schmidt for the role of European Commission president but the 47-year-old Social Democrat has also been touted as a possible successor to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs EU summits.

Asked if she could imagine Thorning-Schmidt in either job, Merkel reiterated Germany's support for Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president and said leaders had not yet discussed who should take Van Rompuy's post when his term ends in November.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is opposed to Juncker, seen by London as an old-style federalist, but he looks increasingly isolated and EU diplomats say the former Luxembourg prime minister is likely to get the nod at next week's EU summit.

"In principle, it can't be the case, in the sense of the unity of the European Union, that only someone who is in the eurozone can be Council President. There is no such rule," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin with Thorning-Schmidt.

"But as I've said, that has nothing to do with Denmark in particular - it's just a general statement," she said.

Merkel said it was not clear whether EU leaders would decide on a personnel package at a summit next week, adding: "Anyway the Danish prime minister is a great prime minister and I've got the impression that she really enjoys her work back home."

Juncker is “a very good candidate”

Thorning-Schmidt said she agreed with Merkel that the content laid out in the policy agenda to be outlined by leaders next week was more important than who would carry it out.

"I think the most important thing now is, quite seriously, that you should focus on what we do together in the next five years and that's more important than who will lead any of the institutions," she said.

Thorning-Schmidt, married to the son of former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, said Juncker was "a very good candidate" for the EU's top job, saying she knew him to be a pragmatic politician with a lot of experience.

Merkel said Germany would make decisions in "a European spirit".

"That doesn't mean we can fulfill every single wish; it means that we can think about what is important for Britain," she said, adding that she was prepared to talk "very constructively" with Britain on issues it considered important.

EU diplomats said there was unlikely to be a package of top appointments next week because neither the European Council president nor the EU's foreign policy chief needed parliamentary approval, whereas the Commission president faces a first vote in the EU assembly in mid-July.

That made it necessary to nominate a candidate by the end of the June 26-27 summit, and there was a growing consensus around Juncker, with the exception of Britain and Hungary.

France and Italy flesh out EU policy proposals

On the policy agenda, France and Italy said on Thursday that the top priority should be reorienting European economic policy to promote growth and public investment notably in digital and energy networks.

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir and his Italian counterpart, Sandro Gozi, set out a list of priorities after talks in Paris, saying the new European Commission should grant maximum flexibility within existing EU budget rules to countries undertaking growth-promoting investments and structural economic reforms.

Desir said the EU should consider creating a European savings plan to mobilise citizens' savings to invest in small business and priority infrastructure projects such as extending high-speed broadband and the transition to renewable energy.

France has widely-used tax-exempt savings accounts at public and private banks which drain citizens' savings for investment in public housing and transport projects.

Gozi said a shift to more growth-friendly economic policies was a condition for Italy's support for the next Commission president. Asked whether Rome had sought assurances from Juncker, he said: "Not yet."

The Italian official also said Rome would demand that EU partners share more of the burden of coping with a flood of illegal migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

He called for the EU's Frontex border management agency to gradually take over the Italian navy's Mare Nostrum operation to rescue migrants adrift on overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean.

  • 26-27 June: EU summit expected to designate new EU Commission President (and possibly other EU top jobs)
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office
  • 1 November: End of mandate of Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.


an european's picture

isn't she beautiful ?
Obama had luck ..I don't have a selfie with her !

an european's picture

Thorning-Schmidt, married to the son of former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, said Juncker was "a very good candidate" for the EU's top job, saying she knew him to be a pragmatic politician with a lot of experience.

Mr. Camerooon ...?

the Englishman's picture

Every time I read something that Merkel says I get the impression that she thinks of herself as the Empress of Europe and what she says is the last word on any matter. The sad truth is of course is that she is the Empress of Europe and the German nation are in charge. The other 27 countries just do what Germany and Merkel says!

Gerry's picture

Rather then focusing on her looks I would want to know what her IQ is, specifically. A high IQ relates directly to the ability to manage complex issues and situations, and the EU must be one of the most complex political constructions in existence today. Just being experienced and pragmatic won't cut it, we need a very bright intellect.

Jean-Guy GIRAUD's picture

"The EU foreign policy chief does not need parliamentary approval" : WRONG

The High representative does need parliamentary approval as any other member of the Commission.
The candidate will be chosen by common agreement between the President elect of the Commission and the European council ; he/she will then then be scrutinized by the competent EP committee which may give a negative opinion; lastly he/she will be elected - or rejected - by the EP along with the other members of the college. JGG

an european's picture

@ Mr Giraud

"he/she will then then be scrutinized by the competent EP committee "
Why fearing!
If treaties are respected I don't see any scrutinization from EP despite Cameron trying to breach the Art.17 !
I ask me For what do we vote then if Leaders are acting on their behavior ?
However the best is one real E.U, President (approved candidates like in the U.S ) direct elected from citizens ! Not President of that & here and another there .
I ask me why are you attacking the European Parliament the Europeans voted for ?

bettysenior's picture

At least there are some sane political leaders.

According to quite a few international media articles Juncker is a drunk and cognac swilling breakfast freak. He therefore appears to be ideal for the job, a boozer and a drunk and exactly what those who want to stay in the EU and keep the gravy train moving along nicely all for themselves (Merkel included) want, but of course not for the direct benefit of the people of the EU who foot the bills. Indeed if I were on the board of a major global corporation that had a budget of €135.5 billion in 2014, I would want a dubious leader overseeing it, wouldn't you? A drunk and a breakfast cognac drinker seems to me to fit the bill exactly. Indeed even more so when a very recent report came out that states that the EU economy through corruption costs it €120 billion a year (note all the EU economies not the EU village itself). But even so, the new leader of the EU juggernaut should be able to implement strategies to get this level of corruption down now shouldn't he, and where again a drunk would perfectly fit the bill again with a foggy mind to determine what should really be done about the matter.

an european's picture

Seems all politicians are cognac swilling breakfast freak!
The best cognac maniac is of course the Englander Nigel Farage who apparently even crashed his plane at drunken state. He even didn't realized what happen when his plane hit the ground as well little later in hospital!