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Friday, May 30, 2014

Belated Ascension Day for Juncker?

Since Tuesday's European Council, at which Angela Merkel pointedly played down Jean-Claude Juncker's prospects of becoming the next European Commission President, she has come under a phenomenal amount of pressure domestically from a wide ranging coalition spanning senior members of her own party, her coalition partner the SPD, the opposition Green party, Germany's most popular tabloid Bild Zeitung and Jürgen Habermas.

This pressure was most likely responsible for her change of tone earlier this afternoon when she said that:
"I am conducting all the discussions in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should be the President of the European Commission."
Even if this is not tantamount to saying "Juncker will be the next Commission President", it is still a clear departure from her position on Tuesday when she said that:
“The agenda [of the next European Commission] can be handled by [Juncker], but also by many others...At the end, there will be a fairly broad tableau of names on the table.”
The SPD has been quick to respond, with the party's General Secretary Yasmin Fahimi claiming that:
"It is good that the public pressure on Merkel forced her to correct her stance. Anything else would have been cheating the voters."
So is it a done deal? No - a lot can still happen before the next Commission President is announced; despite the lofty talk about 'EU democracy', Juncker's eventual ascension or otherwise will still come down to cynical horse-trading between member states - if there is a wider national advantage (such as securing a key Commission portfolio) to be had by supporting an alternative candidate, some member states may jump at the chance. 

However, it cannot be denied that Juncker's prospects look healthier than they did this morning, leaving Cameron in a vulnerable position. We do not know exactly how many other member states share his reservations about Juncker but the risk is that some could now peel away, thereby massively reducing the chances of forming a blocking minority. 

The question for the UK is now whether to accept the damage that a Juncker led Commission would entail and seek other policy and personnel concessions or to invest significant political capital in blocking his accession. Given how big this issue has become both in of itself but also as a proxy for the battle of visions in Europe, Cameron must get something very substantial.

Anything short of the single market portfolio for the next UK Commissioner probably wouldn't cut it. 


Rik said...

Clumsely played.
Hard to see that Cameron for national reasons can allow to lose this battle.
The first battle in the reneg war. Coming out of it with a black eye would hardly be an encouraging result. Especially when half the voters that have run away already think it is useless.
It isnot but the impression people got is as important as reality.

A few pictures of him in bars via the alternative media (and from there...) would probably have taken him out via the court of public opinion.
Hard to see why companies can have alcohol and drugtests for all their employees and the person that is supposed to rule Europe is an alcoholic or at least something very close. And the no2 on their shortlist doesnot look much better.

Jesper said...

Would Germany prefer Juncker as commission president over a German commission president?

What, if anything, can Luxembourg offer in exchange for backing of their candidate to the commission president?
I suppose that the Luxembourg national industry, finance, would love to have someone championing their cause. Maybe it is truly not about nationality after all?

Rik said...

A point I totally forgot.
Cameron not only has the reneg with this president, but also has to go into a referendum.
From that point any of the 3 main candidates are a disaster. Juncker as said the most likely short term (but the most realistic longer of the 3 at least), the other 2 would have had a few years to rubbish all positives of a reneged EU (when possible) in the eyes of large parts of the UK electorate.
On top of that Cameron will have to go into next years election with a USEurope president. hardly great when considerable parts of the 'moving' electorate still donot grasp Cameron's set up or simply still have problems with his credibility on this.

We are where we are. The opportunity in all this at this stage is however that if Cameron wins this battle (and donot end up with an even dodgier candidate (say a Polish warmonger)it will:
a) put his strategy much better on the map (with all the media coverage it is going to get). It is pretty conplicated and Cameron isnot really doing a good job on it (until now at least).
b) be good for his credibility (on this but also in general).
c) show people that there are real possibilities.

I do btw think that Merkel did this mainly for the political homecrowd.
If she has more than 2 braincells (and she clearly has) she knows that a PR disaster annex 'unreformer' is about the last thing you want as a president).
Add all the 'new friends', like Cameron she would get in the process and it would be clear disaster.

She probably would have to give up a CDU candidate as Commissioner as well in exchange. Simply looks like a pretty bad deal.
If that would however be the present energy chap Oetinger or so, it would however not be a bad deal for the EU as well as humanity in general if it would have been his last term. The guy is an incompetent idiot who's portfolio now with the gasissues is way over his head. Germany should have some better people (probably 80 million of them).
Could well be she wants to put the blame for dumping Juncker somewhere else.

Rik said...

Apparently Germans prefer Juncker.
Although the poll looked a bit dodgy tbo.
Looks a complete 'least dirty shirt' choice.
Politician wise Schultz has few supporters with the CDU. And they want to look as democratic as possible.
Merkel likely donot like a fight with the EP.
She also doesnot like problems with here coalition partner and withing her own party (who mainly support Juncker). And she doesnot like a fight with other countries.
Not going to happen she will have problems with at least one of these and probably more. As said earlier this could be done for (Merkel)damage limitation purposes.

Schultz has fans but also haters in Germany. It looks like he got a few percent extra however in his home country. Hard to see however he will have many fans outside the country (looks like a complete disaster tbo).

I do think nationality is not that important for most of the Germans (it is still for eg the French).

Lux who cares what these 5 or 6 people think (simply rounding off stuff).
Juncker looks horrible as well. Carries the whole bagage of being an insider and a dodgy one on top of that.

The main thing (illusion largely) is that people think this is democratic.
Democratic it would have been if there were 3/4 candidates standing for different things. Integration, status quo, reform, close the joint.
These are the 4 popular tastes at the moment. Political colour is hardly important compared to this (especially as all traditional parties are very similar on EU policies.
These are however all 3, further integrationists.

The whole process is missing the link with what voters want and on every level in between these and the candidates.
Parties are way more EU positive than the electorate. Election of candidates looked backroom, candidates only voteable at national level (for Juncker 99.9% could not vote for him).
Even for politicians totally unappealing candidates (Clegg and Mr Ed look like worldbeaters compared to these 3).
No outright majority for any candidate. Extremely low turn out.
Basically playing 100% in the cards of LePen&Co.

Legitimacy/democracy is something very different in my view. Juncker looks more democratic than Schultz, but that is 99% relative. In fact not much better than that young Mr Kim looks better than his old man. Relatively improved but absolute still a disaster.

Average Englishman said...

From this side of the channel it looks like a 'Hobsons Choice' between a complete Eurofederalist fanatic (who may or may not be an alcoholic) and a slightly less Eurofederalist fanatic; name to be advised.

If by some minor miracle Dave and his (very few) pals should secure the latter as the new European Commission President it will make not one jot of difference to his chances of getting the root and branch changes that are required at the EU. Dave should stop trying to 'square the circle' in Brussels and make up his mind whether he is going to look forward to the Conservative Pary having a long time out of office after the next General Election or have a change of heart and take the UK out of the EUSSR. And before making that decision, he should take careful note of the fate of the only head of a major EU political party who has come out wholeheartedly in favour of the UK's active participation in the EU of late, his beloved pal (and one way or another soon to be ex leader of the Liberal Democrat Party), Cleggy.

christhai said...

No, David Cameron did not suddenly grow a pair to "threaten to withdraw the UK from the EU" - if the awful Junckers is appointed President of the EU Commission.

Cameron hid behind the very real threat of UKIP winning a substantial number of seats in Westminster, with which they can insist on a true and early Referendum.

THAT was the danger Cameron whined to Merkel.

Regardless of loaded "Polls" more than 60% of British voters would prefer to leave the EU on ANY terms.

As the clock ticks towards the Dreaded Day in May 2015 - only another 346 days - so UKIP strength gathers and the EU Controlled Parties' strength wanes.

That Britain will exit the EU is now a certainty.

There will be no renegotiation worth spit and apart from some tiny, cosmetic changes, the fanatics of the EU will take the whole failed EU circus towards the ludicrous United States of Europe.

Other nations seeing the horror of the EU's effect on the loss of their homes, their jobs, their national pride have already emigrated en masse to the Anti-EU Parties.

This will continue until there is a majority of democrats in the EU at which point they can dissolve the EU.

The EU has succeeded at nothing good. They can claim credit for nothing and take the blame for being the most corrupt and criminal organisation since Hitler's or Napoleone's.

Anonymous said...

What difference does it make which portfolio which country gets when all EUSSR Commissioners have to swear allegiance to the EUSSR and abandon their national ties?

Idris Francis said...

The worse the better - bring it on!

All grist to the mill

Jesper said...

What is an election analysis without analysing the candidate-effect?

What did effect did Juncker, Schulz etc have on:
-voter participation rates?
-the number of votes their group-parties got?

Some national level politicians might be moved into other positions paid for by the tax-payers. Victory for accountability?