Cameron refuses to back down on Juncker candidacy

Taoiseach, Danish and Finnish PMs touted as possible European Commission president

British prime minister David Cameron: “There is an important principle at stake here which is that the accountable, elected members of the European Council, the elected heads of state, the elected heads of government, should be the ones who propose who runs the European Commission.” Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA Wire

British prime minister David Cameron: “There is an important principle at stake here which is that the accountable, elected members of the European Council, the elected heads of state, the elected heads of government, should be the ones who propose who runs the European Commission.” Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/PA Wire

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 01:00

British prime minister David Cameron has refused to back down from his opposition to former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next head of the European Commission.

Mr Cameron’s declaration came despite a warning that German chancellor Angela Merkel wants a speedy decision to appoint Mr Juncker because she fears the consequences of a long-drawn-out row on the issue.

“I will go on opposing that right up to the end. There is absolutely no question of changing my view about that. In many ways the question is not for me, I have made clear my view,” Mr Cameron said.

Saying he would fight “up to the end” was taken as evidence that Mr Cameron acce- pts his chances of stopping Mr Juncker are fading – though his Eurosceptic wing are unlikely to revolt on the issue.

If anything, Conservative Eurosceptics favour the selection of an unreconstructed Euro-federalist since they can paint him as the bogey-man in a 2017 EU membership referendum, which will take place if the Conservatives win next year’s election.

Position weakened

Mr Cameron’s position is weakened by the fact that the decision on the post will be decided by a qualified majority vote of EU leaders, representing 55 per cent of EU states with more than 65 per cent of the EU’s population.

“There is an important principle at stake here, which is that the accountable, elected members of the European Council, the elected heads of state, the elected heads of government, should be the ones who propose who runs the European Commission,” he said.

The British have refused to accept the decision by parties in the European Parliament to nominate candidates to head the commission – the so-called “spitzenkandidaten”.

The parliament’s bid to take the lead in selecting the next commission president is a “breach of the spirit of the Lisbon treaty”, senior British government sources have said.

“It is a fiction to argue that Jean-Claude Juncker [of the European People’s Party] or Martin Schulz [of the Party of European Socialists] represented the democratic choice of people of Europe,” journalists in London were told.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is still being mentioned by the British as a possible choice, along with France’s Pascal Lamy, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, who stepped down from office in Helsinki on Monday.

London argues that appointing the commission president on the basis of which European Parliament grouping got the most votes “risks the politicisation of the commission” over the next five years.

Urging compromise, the British warned that it “would be a serious mistake to have open division” in the European Council when leaders next meet. “Open division wouldn’t be in Europe’s interest,” said one high-ranking source.

The fallout from the controversy could hurt the UK’s influence in the next commission.

The UK has demanded a super-commissioner’s job. Under this proposal, it would get a commission vice-president, who would be in charge of several commissioners.