Juncker seen rejecting Cameron’s EU Commission reform plan

Jean-Claude Juncker [Conseil Européen]

The leading candidate for the European Commission presidency, Jean-Claude Juncker, has rejected a request by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that the next British commissioner be given charge of a “cluster” of key portfolios, EURACTIV has learned.

Cameron, who opposes Juncker’s Commission bid, has requested last week that the future British Commissioner be given the post of Commission Vice-President in charge of overseeing a “cluster” of portfolios comprising the internal market, competition, trade and energy.

In addition, London wants the strategic post of Commission Secretary General for a British national, and other “small things”, two sources told EURACTIV. The proposal was presented as a trade-off in which Cameron would accept that Juncker gets the Commission President seat.

>> Read: Cameron warming up to Juncker

However, according to sources, Juncker has rejected Cameron’s demand, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly pushing for a decision by qualified majority vote in the Council, in which Cameron is expected to be out-voted.

At least 55% of EU countries representing at least 65% of the population is required to obtain a qualified majority, a threshold which would be easily attained without the UK and the few other countries which could decide to back London.

Juncker’s position is likely to please most EU leaders, who fear “clusters” of Commissioners could dwarf their national representatives.

Junior Commissioners without a cabinet?

The “clusters” would give a super-commissioner status to four or five Commissioners, while the rest would be relegated to junior Commissioners. A junior commissioner would be answerable both to the Commission President and the respective “cluster Commissioner”.

According to the advocates of the “cluster Commissioners” some junior Commissioners would not even have a cabinet, which normally have a staff of around 30 people.

While some smaller EU countries could accept the status of “junior Commissioners”, bigger countries are likely to see this as an offense.

“Just imagine a French “junior Commissioner” working under a British “cluster Commissioner” – no way”, a diplomat said.

The idea of “clusters of Commissioners” or “super Commissioners” has already been raised during the formation of the first Barroso Commission in 2004 but did not materialise. 

Cameron has threatened that Britain would advance a referendum on the UK’s EU membership if Juncker is appointed Commission President.

EU leaders are expected to make a decision on the next Commission President during a summit on 26-27 June. The European parliament will hold a confidence vote on the chosen candidate, possibly as early as on 15 July.

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 meet for regularsummit;
  • 14-17 July: European Parliament session.

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