EPP elects Juncker as candidate for EC presidency

Victory closer than expected, with former Luxembourg prime minister winning 382-245

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP candidate for president of EU Commission.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Jean-Claude Juncker, EPP candidate for president of EU Commission. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 14:57

Jean-Claude Juncker has been selected as the European People’s Party (EPP) candidate for European Commission president. The Former Luxembourg prime minister will now be the centre-right group’s preferred candidate to succeed outgoing president of the Commission Jose Manuel Barroso following the European elections in May.

Mr Juncker beat Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier to the position, with parties in a number of countries including Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain swinging behind his candidature.

But his victory was closer than expected, with Juncker winning by 382 votes to 245.

Some 627 valid votes were cast in this morning’s ballot.

The 59-year old politician has impeccable euro credentials, having led the influential group of euro area finance ministers for 10  years, steering euro zone policy during the height of the euro zone crisis between 2009 and 2012.

Earlier Taoiseach Enda Kenny told delegates that Ireland had succeeded in recasting and restoring its international reputation. But in a strongly-worded speech, he said the government’s policy was not “born out of some ideology.”

“There is little of the suffering of Irish people that I would recommend to other European countries,” the Taoiseach said.

Recounting how Ireland had bailed out its banks at the height of the crisis, he pointed out that the “tools that are in Europe now were not in place then,” a reference to the new EU banking rules which will permit the “bail-in” of creditors in future bank collapses.

Despite the decision to name a candidate for European Commission president ahead of the elections, there is no guarantee that Juncker, or Martin Schulz the Socialist and Democratics (S &D) candidate will ultimately be appointed to the position. A number of senior EU figures, including Angela Merkel, are understood to be opposed to the system. Earlier today, outgoing president Jose Manuel Barroso again reiterated his uneasiness with the process, noting that the candidate ultimately had to have the support of member states.

Speaking following his election, Mr Juncker thanked delegates for their vote of “poitical and personal confidence.”

“I would like us to use the electoral campaign to talk about the real Europe again, the Europe that was crafted and imagine by those who after the second world war came back from concentration camps and the battle fields, and created this political programme. We must talk about this Europe.”

Mr Juncker also underlined the challenges that face centre-right parties in the forthcoming European elections. “We are lagging behind the socialists. We have to catch up with [the socialists], with Mr Schulz, very shortly,” he said.