Juncker may punish Cameron with top job carve-up

Jean-Claude Juncker [Conseil Européen]

Britain may come away empty-handed when EU leaders finalise a package of top EU jobs next week, due to its fierce opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker's appointment as the next European Commission president.

Prime Minister David Cameron angered his peers in June by breaking with a tradition of taking decisions by consensus and forcing a vote on whether Juncker should head the EU executive. Only Britain and Hungary voted "no".

Cameron branded Juncker a "career insider of Brussels" and said his selection was a bad day for Europe.

"After the mess at the last summit, many leaders are much less willing to accommodate Britain, far less reward it with top jobs," one EU diplomat said.

The leaders, meeting in Brussels for dinner next Wednesday, are to agree with Juncker who should be the EU's next foreign policy chief, replacing Britain's Catherine Ashton, whose term ends in October.

The may also decide who will chair their summits and act as a consensus builder and mediator among member states when European Council President Herman Van Rompuy steps down at the end of the year.

The choices are complex because of the need to balance gender, political affiliation, small and large countries, and north, south, east and west.

Because Juncker, the former Luxembourg premier set to win a comfortable endorsement by the European Parliament on Tuesday, is from the centre-right and western Europe, the leaders may look for socialists or women from northern, eastern or southern Europeans for the other two posts.

To ease a compromise, they are likely to discuss candidates for other key EU positions due to come up over the next 12 months, even if they only reach an informal understanding.

Key to solving the puzzle will be the allotment of 27 portfolios -- one for each EU country -- in the new Commission that will start work from November under Juncker.

Some jobs in the EU's executive are more coveted because they wield more power, such as competition, trade, economics, energy and the internal market, covering financial and business regulation.

Britain has not put forward a candidate for foreign policy chief or European Council president, but diplomats said it was hoping for a big economic portfolio - the internal market, trade or competition - in the new Commission.

However, under EU law it is up to Juncker to decide which country gets which job.

"None of these portfolios is likely to go to Britain. You don't reward someone who is against you," a second EU diplomat said.

Mogherini in pole-position

Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is front-runner to become the new EU "foreign minister", diplomats said, not least because leaders are keen to reward reform-minded Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is pushing her candidacy hard.

In addition to her political skills, Mogherini is a Socialist and a woman, even if some EU diplomats question her foreign policy experience. The gender criterion carries a lot of weight for Commission jobs as Juncker would like to have more women in his team then the current Commission's nine.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, though male and conservative, is also a strong candidate, diplomats said, as is centre-right Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, now EU Commissioner for International Cooperation.

Diplomats say Social Democratic Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has quite broad support to become the next European Council president, but she may fall short because she is not from a euro zone country.

The French government is not keen to see the job go to a euro outsider, but some diplomats say Paris could trade support for her for the heavyweight economic and monetary portfolio for its former Socialist finance minister Pierre Moscovici.

Married to the son of former British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock, Thorning-Schmidt would also have London's support.

"The Danish prime minister appears to be a choice acceptable to almost everybody and she could act as a bridge with Britain," a third EU diplomat said.

If she is blocked, centre-right Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is seen as a possible consensus candidate. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a right-wing liberal, also has a chance, as could centre-right Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

"I don't rule out an incomplete package next week without the name of Van Rompuy's successor," said an EU official briefed on the preparations. "They don't need to fill that job until the autumn."

Eurogroup presidency

Another post that may come into the equation is the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, the Eurogroup, now held by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who juggles national responsibilities with the pan-euro zone role.

Euro zone leaders now want a full-time Eurogroup president, possibly appointed for five years, rather than the 2-1/2 year part-time contract, which for Dijsselbloem ends in mid-2015.

Conservative Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is widely seen as the likely successor to Dijsselbloem, unless the Dutchman were reappointed

  • 15 July: Parliament votes to elect Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission president
  • 16 July: EU leaders gather in Brussels for first discussions on the Commission team
  • September: Each commissioner is scrutinised in individual hearings before Parliament committees
  • October: European Parliament votes to approve or reject new Commission College as a whole
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office
External links: 


Gerry's picture

"You don't reward somebody who is against you" , a more productive attitude might have been Keep your friend close, but your enemies closer! Then you can catch them in time when they start plotting against you.
However everything in the Parliament is achieved by negotiation and consensus building. Although this opens it up to accusations of "back room deals" the reality is that with this many countries who all have a history of war with each other, it just has to be this way. In that respect the EU is fundamentally different then politics in the UK or USA, where parliamentary proceedings are settled by domination and confrontation. Cameron still has difficulty with the concept.
As far as the foreign ministry is concerned, there can be only one person suitable and that is Radoslav Sikorsky. Give the other jobs to the women but this position needs a strong male capable of saying "no".

Kathleen Garnett's picture

Are you seriously suggesting that women are incapable of saying "no"? Should women still be teaching knitting classes? Or how about the Kindergarten portfolio that's right up their street, right? Give 'em Culture or Tourism. I know that Catherine Ashton has cut a refreshingly low-key figure on the Brussels scene but stayig out of the lime light does not equate to incompetence or inability. Hilary Clinton? Does she look like a lady who rolls over and acquieces when cofronted with challenging global situations? Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF? Not a foreign policy post admittedly but international enough for her to have to deal with enough male ego's and I'm sure she has had to say "no" on many, many occassions. As no doubt did many of her predecessor's assistants who caught the eye of their boss, DSK - possibly to the detriment of their careers. Many women like to think that sexism is a thing of the past but then I read posts like this and realise, well I'll be damned.

Gerry's picture

These women are exceptional individuals. Presently i am not convinced that the current crop of female EU candidates for the position are of that calibre. However to turn this High Commissioner bla bla into a genuine Foreign Office whose word carries weight, my choice remains Sikorski.

Eurochild's picture

Kathleen, you forget, often when a woman says "no" many men think she really means "yes".

Eulover's picture

Late in the discussion.
But how can you compare Ashton with Clinton or Lagarde ?
Aston has been inexistant, an empty entity !!! It has nothing to do with her gender.
I guess it was the reason she had been nominated by the Council, not to start any competion with these highly selfish Heads of State ...

an european's picture

At least the E.U. has a face unlike U.K. !

You know... England loses the football ! Cameron loses it's " No Juncker for President " due to his interests and ignoring the European Act's and it's own undemocratic behavior !
Don't dare question it or else

But Yes ! That's good that Mr. Juncker is There Now!

El Pluribus Unum

Eurochild's picture

Again Joe Thorpe misunderstands - Cameron desperately wants a top job for the new British Commissioner and, yes, he would be very upset and angry if Britain doesn't get one.

This headline is wrong, however. It's not Juncker who will be punishing Cameron, but it's Cameron who's made a mess of everything. Aside from wanting/expecting a "top job", Cameron has done nothing to communicate with Juncker on what kind of post he expects and it also seems that the new British Commissioner is going to be a useless Tory politician who had to stand down from a previous post due to ineptness/corruption but who Cameron wants to bring back onto the political scene.

Also, Juncker was supported by other national governments whom he feels he can work with better and so their Commissioners are individuals with whom he could work better. Moreover, by being out of the EPP, Cameron can't push a British candidate forward for a top job on the basis of needing a balance with the major parties.

Iwantout's picture

I think it is you who misunderstands. Yes Cameron wants a top job for the new British Commissioner because he has to convince a completely disbelieving public that the UK has any say whatsoever on the way the EU operates. Given that he is a Europhile he is desperate for this fig leaf.

Personally I’m hoping against hope that the UK gets given either Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries or Climate Action. All perfectly worthy positions I am sure, but just the sort of posts that confirm that the Brussels bureaucracy has no interest in reform and return of any powers to national parliaments. Such a commission post would serve to help the out campaign come 2017.

Many (most ?) commissioners over the years from lots of countries have proved to be incompetent and a significant number corrupt, although you will have to help me with the name of any British Commissioner who was shown to be corrupt.

Given the fundamentally federal nature of the EPP and the entire lack of support for such an aim by both the electorate and parties in the UK, the Conservatives could do nothing other than leave the EPP if they were to remain honest and honourable.

Finally remember that the ECR is the third biggest party in the EP and as such if this is to be a factor in the allocation of portfolios then surely they should be more successful than the ALDE in securing top positions.

Starbuck's picture

"Many (most ?) commissioners over the years from lots of countries have proved to be incompetent and a significant number corrupt, although you will have to help me with the name of any British Commissioner who was shown to be corrupt. "

Leon Brittan has recently been in the news ... to name but one

make the list of all EU commissioners that have been indicted of crimes during their tenure, in the past 30 years, and I will draw you a list of all UK cabinet ministers who have had to resign due to a criminal scandal in a 5 : 1 ratio during the same period (well, those chaps hardly get anything more than a slap on the wrist when found lying/stealing/raping).

Iwantout's picture

Leon Brittan has been interviewed (not charged or convicted) regarding alleged offences that occurred in the UK that had nothing whatsoever to do with corruption or the EU.

With regards to the Commission we can name several Commissioners who have either exited “under a cloud” or served under one – John Dalli, Edith Cresson, Jacques Barrot, etc.

The EU Commission has designed systems which do little to prevent fraud. Remember Marta Andreasen being fired for challenging the Commission on its lax financial controls, in addition the political control of OLAF has been subject of criticism for years.

Yet others have been actively victimised for highlighting corruption eg Hans Martin Tillack (His book The corrupt Republic: Lucrative fiddling of politics, bureaucracy and economy is revealing) or for challenging the policy of the EU and predicting the problems the Euro faced years before they surfaced e.g Bernard Connelly.

No public life in the UK is not perfect; the MPs expenses case would be an obvious example. But at least in the UK there is a history of charging and convicting politicians who commit criminal acts (although I would argue not enough), recent examples would be Chris Huhne, Elliot Morely, David Chaytor, Denis MacShane etc. All of whom went to prison. In the case of the EU this simply does not happen, Edith Cresson for example was found guilty by the European Court of Justice but no penalty at all was imposed.

But this is now almost a side issue given the announcement by Martin Schulz today that our nominated commissioner may simply be rejected by the EP. It seems we are no longer even allowed to select our own representatives.

A Londoner's picture

I can see the prestige argument but does nationality matter? It is the effectiveness of the Commissioners which is crucial. So from the UK perspective the priority should be to see good Commissioners in Trade, Internal Market and Competition. Or am I going native and becoming European minded in my old age?

GeorgeMc's picture

So the EU want to teach Cameron a lesson! Good! More anti EU news will play into UKIPs hands. We could actually have a fairly pro UK prime minister (granted he wants changes) having to support an OUT vote in a referendum. Excellent stuff, bring it on.

Eulover's picture

I think the important things for someone like Junker building his team is :
1) insure the chosen people are competent in they domain.
2) insure these people are happy to work in these positions and accept the leadership of Junker
3) insure that these people do not have a hidden agenda or are too nationalist to look after the global benefit of Europe, whatever the country they coming from.
4) insure their nomination doesn't break the balance agreed by the European Parliament (the only elected power at EU level)
Is there any British politicians who can today answer these criteria ?
So whoever will be Cameron's candidate for whatever job, I doubt this poor guy will success to be nominated.

Content Partners