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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

German media turn on Cameron over Juncker - but what are they arguing for?

We pointed out on Friday that a powerful coalition between media and politicians was forming in Germany in support of Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next Commission President and the Spitzenkandidaten experiment more generally. More worryingly for Cameron, he has emerged as the pantomime villain of the piece due to his opposition to both.

What's interesting though is that German commentators seem to argue more against Cameron than in favour of Juncker - who, we suspect, most of them realise that the idea of Juncker as the saviour of European democracy isn't entirely intellectually sound. A widely reported pre-election opinion poll for Bild showing that only 7% of Germans actually knew Juncker was a candidate, is no longer cited.  Here is a round-up of some of the key pieces from the past few days:

On Friday, the big news was the endorsement of Juncker by Axel Springer (the parent company of Bild and Welt). In a piece headlined “Juncker has to become President", the group's chairman Mathias Döpfner wrote:
“Are the results of the elections in Europe the sovereign decision of the citizens that politicians ought to implement? Or are they a form of non-binding suggestion that in the backrooms of powers can be interpreted and then gladly twisted into something opposite?”
"The issue is clear: Europeans want Juncker as the EU president. Schulz got the second-best result. A third [candidate], who didn't stand for election, can't be allowed to get the job. Otherwise that would make a farce out of democracy. You may get away with something like that in the DDR or in far-right banana republics. But not in the EU. Otherwise it will abolish itself."
In another comment piece on Saturday titled “Merkel must keep her word”, regular Bild columnist Ernst Elitz - who has often been critical of EU over-reach argued that :
“Before the elections it was clear: The Commission President will be decided by the voters and the EU Parliament. Afterwards some national leaders don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
On Monday, Handelsblatt’s Brussels correspondent Thomas Ludwig argued that:
“Whoever listens to the Brits in the debate about the personnel for Europe’s top posts is allowing the notorious spoil sport to take charge of the game... “It is impudence that the British Prime Minster David Cameron called the vote of the people an ‘unnecessary restriction’ for the political manoeuvring in the personnel poker. What kind of democracy understanding is that!”
Die Welt's Brussels correspondent Florian Eder - another German journalist and commentator who is often sensitive to the need for EU reform - also had a piece on Monday in which he argued that:
"It would in any case be a risky move [for member states to put forward an alternative candidate] which would delight the strengthened anti-Europeans that David Cameron and Francois Hollande want to keep at bay. The sceptics could already by the first vote get that which they could never achieve alone: a hamstrung, institutionally paralysed EU. Is that supposed to make sense?" 
"the European Council is by no means set against Juncker. Many of its members, including social democrats, have come out in support of the Luxembourger. That was how it had been agreed: the election winner would become Commission President. Cameron is voting against this as he blames his defeat at the European elections on the EU, which should show consideration towards him and his party interests... whoever blocks Juncker is duping the voters who believed in a political promise."
German magazine Spiegel went the furthest, with its English-language version publishing an editorial yesterday entitled "Decision Time: Britain must now decide if it will stay in Europe", which argued that:
“The EU cannot allow itself to be blackmailed by the British for another three years and refuse to give the people of Europe what was assured to them before the election - that they could use their vote to determine the next president of the European Commission. If the EU doesn't fulfill that promise, it will lose all credibility and acceptance… Britain is important to be sure. But the choice between a more democratic EU and Britain's continued membership is clear. Europe must choose democracy.”
There are a others who take a more nuanced tone. For example FAZ’s Brussels correspondent, Werner Mussler, points out that:
“The future of democracy in the EU does not depend on whether [the European Commission President] is called Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz or something else.” 


David Horton said...

The article by Der Spiegel is really rather offensive in tone and content.

“The EU cannot allow itself to be blackmailed by the British for another three years and refuse to give the people of Europe what was assured to them before the election - that they could use their vote to determine the next president of the European Commission… … Britain is important to be sure. But the choice between a more democratic EU and Britain's continued membership is clear. Europe must choose democracy.”

The people of Europe may indeed have been assured that their vote would determine the next Commission President. However, nowhere were the people of Britain ever asked whether they accepted or wanted a President to hold dominion over them. I am far from being pro-Cameron, but at least he is listening to the electorate’s concerns; even responding to them in his usual lukewarm way. This is diametric to the EU position whose response to the increased EU scepticism is to ignore it and label it as far right, or extremist. Europe must choose democracy? If you truly believe that this is democracy, then, you are welcome to it.

The positions in Britain are crystallising. This is driven by the EU reluctance (and in some cases, flat refusal) to countenance any change in the membership rules, which is then exacerbated by the promise of a President whose Federalist intentions are blindingly obvious. The British voter’s position on the EU might once have been measured as being in one of five camps:

1. Leave
2. Revert to EEC model
3. Change to restore certain powers to national governments
4. Maintain status quo
5. Further (Federal) integration

What is clear now, is that there are now only two camps. The EU will not consider reverting to an EEC model. Neither will Cameron manage to claw back any substantive or worthwhile powers to individual sovereign states. But worse, is that with the imminent appointment of Juncker, camps 4 & 5, maintaining the status quo and further integration, are now one and the same thing.

The choice being given to Britain therefore is stark and simple. We can leave, or become part of an even more integrated EU. The EU, through its intransigence, arrogance and belief in its on omnificence, is forcing Britons into one of these two camps. Where once, there might have been a spread of opinion, it is, as I say crystallising into a straight choice. Where Spiegel talks about blackmail, I would suggest that this accusation should levelled elsewhere. The EU is blackmailing Britain with this choice of to exit, or agree to further and deeper integration.

Carefully avoiding any accusation of jingo, gunboats or cavalry ‘huzzah’, it is perfectly accurate to say that if you try to force Britain and the Britons to do something that they don’t agree with, they will bite back, regardless of the consequences.

Therefore, in 2017 (or maybe earlier) Britain will, to the delight and horror of other EU nations, Britain will be leaving the EU. The economic pain will be bad, but not much better for EU countries losing Britain as an export market.

Personally, I am weary of this discussion. I have waited in vain for sign that the EU is amenable to member needs beyond its own. There have been none and I now no longer agree with the OpenEurope vision. The EU can’t change its course. Not won’t, can’t. Therefore, I will be calling for Britain to leave at each and every opportunity.

Average Englishman said...

It looks like the German press have the same high and unbiased standards as the UK's hacks(the latter having excelled themselves recently with their blatant smear campaign against UKIP). They're influence is much over-rated anyway, as the good results for UKIP in the recent elections demonstrate. So altogether, so what if the German press does huff and puff?

This whole charade is a nonsense anyway when one considers the basic facts:-

* Only fans of EU federalism will be appointed to the top jobs in 'the firm' come what may, so it really matters little whether they are welcomed by Merkel, Cameron, the German press or 'Uncle Tom Cobley'.

* The whole process is grossly undemocratic and so the idea that the appointment of one of the alternative candidates is potentially more or less democratic than another is a bad joke.
I do not recall in the recent EU election campaign in the UK any reference being made by any of the major parties to the idea that the votews cast would count towards the election of the EUSSR's next 'El Presidente'. Where was that coverage please?

Personally, I hope they give Dave a good bashing as maybe, just maybe, it will help to open his eyes to what he is really dealing with and convince him to grow a backbone and take the UK out of the EU back to freedom and proper democratic control by its people.

Well if the EU Commissars can dream of an economically successful federal Europe with a central government that is loved by its people, I can surely dream that one UK Prime Minister will finally see some sense; can't I?

johnlandseer said...

My takeaway from this whole charade is that:

- Merkel rules the roost
- Cameron really is totally in hoc to Merkel
- AfD will not be joining the tories in the EU parliament
- Cameron has a blind dogs chance of re-negotiating any return of powers to the UK
- The Euro remains the gift that keeps giving - it will help crucify the club med states/peripherpy of the EU

The little boy, putting his finger in the dyke springs to mind - the waters will overcome the dam.

Invoke Article 50 Today! - seems appropriate.

Denis Cooper said...

"The issue is clear: Europeans want Juncker as the EU president."

Well, some the 8% who have heard of him may do.

A load of bloody nonsense from beginning to end.