Juncker appears set to be named European Commission president
Hollande convenes mini-summit in Paris
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan with European Stability Mechanism managing director Klaus Regling prior to the Luxembourg EU euro group finance ministers’ meeting at EU headquarters in Luxembourg. Photograph: EPA/Nicolas Bouvy
There is growing expectation that Jean-Claude Juncker will be named as the next president of the European Commission at next week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels, though a decision on the other EU top jobs is likely to be deferred until next month.
British prime minister David Cameron is facing an uphill battle to garner a blocking minority against the appointment of the former Luxembourg prime minister, with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi expected to lend support to Mr Juncker. The nomination of Juncker emerged as a bargaining tool between the EU and Italy earlier this week, with the Italian prime minister pushing for greater flexibility in meeting deficit and debt targets set by Brussels in exchange for support for Juncker.
French president François Hollande will today host a mini-summit of centre-left EU leaders today in Paris, which will be attended by Mr Renzi, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt among others. German chancellor Angela Merkel is understood to be favouring the early appointment of Mr Juncker in a bid to avoid a prolonged public debate that has already strained relations between London and Berlin.
While the European Parliament must approve the next commission president next month, no such approval is needed for the appointment of the head of the European Council or High Representative post.
Speaking yesterday in Luxembourg, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said he supported Mr Juncker’s candidacy. “I think there’s a fundamental democratic position that our party, the European People’s Party, put him forward as his candidate on the clear understanding that if we had a majority, he would be the candidate for President Barroso’s position. So I think there was a commitment to the public on that basis.”
Asked whether Mr Juncker, who was the head of the euro group during the Irish bailout, was the right candidate for the position, Mr Noonan said: “He was the selected candidate by vote in Dublin and he defeated Michel Barnier, and that’s the position.”
MEPs have until next Tuesday to form political groups in the European Parliament, with French National Front leader Marine Le Pen under pressure to gather the requisite support from seven countries.
Ms Le Pen has so far enlisted MEPs from right-wing parties in four other European countries – the Netherland’s Dutch Freedom Party, Italy’s Lega Nord, the Austrian Freedom Party and Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang.
In contrast to Ms Le Pen, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party has succeeded in gaining the support of 48 MEPs from seven countries for its Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, while the British Conservative-led European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), who last week voted to admit German party Alternative fur Deutschland, may bypass liberal group Alde as the third-largest group in the parliament.
The ECR has garnered the support of 68 MEPs, including representatives of the Flemish separatist party N-VA, Poland’s Law and Justice Party and the controversial True Finns and Danish People’s Party.
The Tories founded the ECR group in 2009 after their leader David Cameron left the centre-right European People’s Party .