الخميس , مايو 20 2021

Summit set to snub UK over Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker arrives at European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Kortrijk. 26 June 2014Jean-Claude Juncker is the choice of the European People’s Party, which won the most seats in the European Parliament

EU leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to confirm former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission.

The move comes despite strong opposition from Britain.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said “the odds are stacked against me” over Mr Juncker, but stressed that he would stick to his principles.

He believes Mr Juncker is too much in favour of closer political union and might block EU reform.

He also objects to the way Mr Juncker, a 59-year-old veteran of Brussels deal-making, was put forward. He was lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which won last month’s European elections.

The UK Conservatives – who pulled out of the EPP – suspect that the Commission is being politicised in a power grab by the European Parliament. But Mr Juncker’s supporters value his record of consensus-building and commitment to EU integration.

Under new EU treaty rules the leaders have to take account of the European election result when nominating a Commission chief. The parliament will vote on the nominee next month.

Mr Cameron is seeking an unprecedented summit vote on the appointment, which is usually made by consensus.

But his bid to block Mr Juncker suffered a major setback this week when his allies changed tack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had given Mr Cameron hope after agreeing to a vote on the issue if there was no consensus.

But both the Netherlands and Sweden – normally close to UK positions in Europe – have since said they will back Mr Juncker.

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EU power structure - graphic

Jean-Claude Juncker: A man for Europe?

Arguments for and against Juncker

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In the past such sensitive appointments have been decided through informal negotiations in the European Council.

With Hungary now Mr Cameron’s only supporter, analysts say Mr Juncker is likely to be overwhelmingly backed, even if it does go to a vote.

The BBC’s Chris Morris in Brussels says many European diplomats feel that Mr Cameron’s approach in the EU is too confrontational, going against the grain of consensus decision-making in the union.

There is speculation that the UK may get a powerful seat on the Commission as a “consolation prize”, he says – for example, commissioner for the internal market. But UK officials say they are not negotiating for something else as a trade-off.



David Cameron speaking in Brussels

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David Cameron: “Juncker not right person to take organisation forward”

Mr Cameron vowed to “insist” on a vote on Mr Juncker, so that EU leaders would have to justify their support for the veteran politician in public.

Mr Cameron says he is determined to press ahead with renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership, followed by an in/out referendum in the UK in 2017, if his Conservative Party wins next year’s general election.

“It is the opening step in a longer campaign to secure change in Europe, a better position for Britain in Europe, and a referendum that will be held before the end of 2017,” he said.

The row comes a month after anti-EU parties made sweeping gains in European elections. They won nearly a third of the parliamentary seats.



Jean-Claude Juncker - file pic

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In 60 seconds: What does UK have against Jean-Claude Juncker?

In a landmark move on Friday the summit leaders signed far-reaching trade partnership deals with three former Soviet republics – Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

The “association agreements” commit the countries to EU standards, including new customs regulations, quality controls and free market competition.

Russia is suspicious of these agreements and is trying to draw ex-Soviet republics into its own customs union. A senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin told the BBC the deal was in breach of the Ukrainian constitution.

“What [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko is doing is illegitimate thing,” Sergei Glazyev said.

On the first day of the summit on Thursday, prime ministers and presidents of the 28 EU states set aside their differences to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One in a ceremony at Ypres, Belgium.

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Next steps

27 June – European Council expected to nominate Mr Juncker

1-3 July – First post-election session of new European Parliament

14-17 July – European Parliament votes on nominee for Commission president – expected to back Mr Juncker

September – Parliament grills each nominee for 28-member Commission (one from each member state)

October – Parliament votes on new Commission team

November – New Commission should take office, as should new EU foreign policy chief and new European Council president.

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