Cameron wins promise of vote on commission president

Polish magazine alleges foreign minister was recorded referring to UK leader's 'incompetence'

British prime minister David Cameron’s decision to ratchet up the disagreement surrounding the selection of  Jean-Claude Juncker is causing exasperation. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British prime minister David Cameron’s decision to ratchet up the disagreement surrounding the selection of Jean-Claude Juncker is causing exasperation. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 01:00

European Union leaders will have to vote on their choice to become the next head of the European Commission, British

prime minister David Cameron has agreed with the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. The agreement – or, more accurately, the recognition of a diplomatic impasse – came during a brief 30-minute “full and frank” meeting between the two in Downing Street yesterday.

“The prime minister explained that his view would not change,” said No 10 last night, warning the Spitzenkandidaten process, by which the president is chosen based on which European parliamentary grouping won most votes, would be an irreversible step that would hand power from the European Council to the European Parliament.

It creates “the risk that the European Parliament would dictate the European Union’s agenda. It would also politicise the European Commission and compromise its exercise of its important regulatory functions,” said a spokeswoman.

London’s decision to ratchet up the disagreement surrounding the selection of former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker is causing exasperation.

Mr Cameron was either reckless or incompetent, according to a secretly recorded conversation published by a magazine in Poland. Wprost magazine published what it said were excerpts of a conversation between foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski and former finance minister Jacek Rostowski. It said they were recorded at a restaurant in Warsaw.

‘Stupid propaganda’

Mr Sikorski is quoted as saying Mr Cameron’s attempt to negotiate EU rule changes was sign of “either a reckless step, or, not for the first time, his incompetence in European affairs . . . Do you remember, he f**ked up the fiscal pact. F**ked it up. As simple as that. Because he’s not interested, because he doesn’t know, because he believes in all that stupid propaganda, and is trying stupidly to manipulate the system.”

In remarks that appeared to refer to Mr Cameron’s approach to Eurosceptics at home, Mr Sikorski said the British leader was making concessions to them, and the policy had backfired: “In this way he has left them space for them to humiliate him.”

However, No 10 was making little effort to play along with hopes among diplomats the rancour left by the row could dissipate over the summer.

Instead, No 10 warned that appointing Mr Juncker on the back of his nomination by the European People’s Party would see EU rules “abused and broken, or [they] would be if the Spitzenkandidaten process is followed through on”.

Assessment of EU

Pressed to say if Mr Juncker’s appointment would hurt efforts to keep the UK in the EU, she said: “Fellow leaders need to realise that British voters, looking at a referendum in 2017, will be thinking about the decisions that Brussels and the EU has taken.”