Merkel backs Juncker for top EU post

‘Bild’ tabloid attacks dithering on next commission president as ‘farce’

German chancellor Angela Merkel has backed Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president just three days after declining to do so in Brussels.

The German leader has always stressed she sees “no automaticity” between EU top jobs and the European election result, which saw Mr Juncker and the European People’s Party (EPP) get the most votes.

Dr Merkel insists the European treaties oblige EU leaders to “take into account” election results, but also allow them to put forward alternative candidates to head the commission for a vote in the European Parliament.

With neither Mr Juncker nor Socialist lead candidate Martin Schulz holding a parliamentary majority after the weekend elections, the German leader said on Tuesday that a "somewhat broader tableau" of candidates should be considered for the commission job.


Uproar over remarks

Her remarks caused uproar in Brussels and back home in Berlin for appearing to call into question the decision to run the European elections on the basis of the “Spitzenkandidat” or lead candidates system. Yesterday, at a visit to Germany’s annual Catholic Day in Regensburg, the Lutheran pastor’s daughter appeared to repent.

“I am holding all talks in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should become president of the European Commission,” she said.

Her Social Democratic Party (SPD) coalition partner welcomed the shift, with SPD general secretary Yasmin Fahimi saying that "anything else would have been voter fraud".

Dr Merkel's about-face came hours after the Bild tabloid dismissed as "a scandal" her dithering over whether to back Mr Juncker.

Back-room politics

“Are the European election results a sovereign citizen decision for politicians to implement or a non-binding recommendation that can be interpreted in back-rooms even into the exact opposite?” wrote Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of


’s publishing company.

He warned that a dark-horse candidate would plunge European democracy "into farce" and, in a swipe at the East German-raised leader, added: "That might be all right for East Germany or in . . . a banana republic but not in the EU."

Philosopher Jürgen Habermas agreed, warning yesterday that disregarding the election result in favour of a third candidate would be an “act of vandalism” that would strike the European project “at its heart”.

A long-time critic of Dr Merkel, Dr Habermas suggested that, on her watch, Germany had lost its traditional, European integrationist voice.

"This directional voice, which rose above daily politics and power opportunism, was never more needed than today," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily.

“We have to stop taking ruthless advantage, in the German style of old, of this halfhegemonical position.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin