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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If you force 26 EU countries to choose between Berlin and London. 26 will choose Berlin.

The knife in the battle over the next Commission President has just been twisted a little deeper into David Cameron's side.

Both Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte today announced that they will not seek to block Jean-Claude Juncker for the top post.

Both countries have huge reservations, (Sweden and Hungary were the only two countries to oppose the idea of Spitzenkandidaten from the get-go), but they apparently don't want to be standing on the wrong side of the fence from Germany.

Speaking in the Dutch Parliament today, Rutte said:
I’m set on [Juncker. He is] in a position to implement important Dutch wishes.
A slight departure, then, from remarks Rutte made previously, that the Spitzenkandidaten process is “not my preference,” and that he wants to initiate a fundamental debate on it “possibly during the Dutch presidency” over the European Council in 2016.

Importantly, Rutte also remarked:
Under no circumstances, will I make agreements over adapting the fiscal rules, or making them more flexible, in order to make the nomination of a candidate possible.
Meanwhile, Reinfeldt told the Swedish Parliament:
If Jean Claude Juncker musters a qualified majority amongst heads of state and governments, and also has the support of the European Parliament, well then, the rules set out in the Lisbon Treaty have been followed and Sweden will also join this majority. 
Though Reinfeldt doesn't actually state how he would act in an outright vote, it probably means he will not vote against Juncker. 

So that only leaves the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, on 'Team Cameron'. Orban said "there is no way" he would vote for Juncker, even before the European Parliamentary election.

Absent changes, Cameron is now a long way off a blocking minority to Juncker in the Council. With Italy trading support for Juncker in exchange for more "flexible" EU fiscal policy, and the Netherlands and Sweden dropping out too, Cameron will lose the vote on Friday. This is the grim reality, even though most EU heads of state are far from convinced about Juncker, and of the Spitzekandidaten process itself.

The top line is that if you pit London against Berlin, and ask other EU member states to choose between them, they won't choose London.

So the trick is to avoid that choice - which in this case was rather difficult. For reasons we've explained numerous times, the likely consequence of repeatedly forcing this choice is that the UK will leave the EU. That most certainly isn't in Berlin's interest either - or Stockholm's, or the Hague's, or Copenhagen's, or Warsaw's...


Jesper said...

Reinfeldt choosing to support the winner and leaving his friends, allies and principles behind?
I'm not surprised.

He'll say and do anything to get friends, that is how he got elected, that is how he is. Not much different to most politicians, though he might be worse than many.

Having said that there are also more considerations:
-His government looks like they'll lose the next election and he might need to find a new job. EU jobs are well paid.
-Scandinavians are in the running for top EU-jobs. Two Scandinavians are one too many to have in top EU-jobs -> One position up for grabs. No Swede for the Commission president, but a Swede is in the running for the High Commissioner and by coincidence one strong candidate for that post recently endured a public attempt of shaming by some leaked tapes.

The choice isn't between London and Berlin, the choice is between Brussels and national power. I suppose it does make sense to make a position that one loses less powerful... That might explain the reasoning of Hollande and Reinfeldt

Charles said...

The wording chosen in these few lines perfectly mirrors the overall British bias against its European partners and Europe.

"they apparently don't want to be standing on the wrong side of the fence from Germany."

This is typical, if you're not with the UK (which is the right side to be of course), it's because of Germany's power and strength. Visions of Europe that date back to the 19th and 20th centuries, where most of the British game in Europe was to try and divide the European powers, making sure no one got too powerful. After 2 centuries, for British commentators, even if they call themselves 'Open' Europe, we're still there....

"With Italy trading support for Juncker in exchange for more "flexible" EU fiscal policy"
Well, obviously Italy is 'trading', what else? You know the Italians, always trying to bribe their way through.... Stereotypes and prejudices that, sadly, give the British such a distorted view of what happens across the Channel. MarK Rutte, for the Brits the Dutch are traditionally friends (they were reduced in size and power long time ago), is spared from this horrible suspicion thanks to a quotation from his speech where he makes clear he didn't trade. It doesn't matter that Italian PM Renzi said that names were not important and that he wanted to see a change in the rigid austerity policies the day after the elections. If a Norther European politician says that, it's political stance. Because it's the Italian PM, well, he's 'trading' his support. Gosh, how many years to become a journo in Britain?

"For reasons we've explained numerous times, the likely consequence of repeatedly forcing this choice is that the UK will leave the EU."
Would you please be more precise? The consequence is 'likely' because the UK PM has put himself in a stupid cul-de-sac, showing that his only concern is to gain favour from a media-drugged public opinion at home, rather than securing the best for the UK in Europe. That consequence that you make nearly automatic, is not automatic at all. However, no trace of any criticism towards David Cameron's strategy here, Open Europe has always been careful to steer away from such continental attitudes....

"That most certainly isn't in Berlin's interest either - or Stockholm's, or the Hague's, or Copenhagen's, or Warsaw's"
Wow, what a list! Had the author not been biased, we might have found London in that list too. But obviously, the emphasis must be on what the others lose if the UK goes.....

Reality is, with this kind of debate the UK can only leave. Confrontational, aggressive, threatening behaviours don't work in Europe and I hope never will. The reason? The European project was born exactly to put a stop to this exercise of muscles the Brits love so much. Europe is compromise, get over it. Even if you think it's backdoor stuff, 'trading' etc., there will always be another word to describe what really happens without such stereotypical accents: compromise, negotiations, getting together. This last bit is what the Brits fail to understand. The reason why the Dutch and the Swedish have left Cameron cold is because Cameron prompted a war, with me or against me. No one wants a war in Europe, not any more.

Average Englishman said...

Do I detect just a little anti-Uk prejudice in your comments Charles? Surely not. Anyway, to take you up on a few specifics.

Firstly, the UK population is certainly not 'media-drugged'. I was standing on street corners in the 1990's trying to warn the UK public what a disaster the Euro would be for Europe and the UK in particular and the press mostly regarded me and my like minded colleagues as crackpots. The UK press and Cameron are now reacting to finally enlightened and outraged UK public opinion, not forming it. It's called democracy, something the EUSSR and its elites care very little about.

When the UK people see injustice (am meted out against the unemployed youth in Southern Europe, and against the UK population who pay top dollar to be tied up with unwanted immigration and a mountain of unreasonable laws such as the Common Agricultural Policy, straight bananas and all), and when they see their future potentially governed by shabby political deals behind closed doors by an unelected so called elite who specialize in lining their own pockets, they will always fight rather give in to oppression in the name of compromise. That sort of compromise is called appeasement Charles and if the UK had been happy to accept it and 'go with the flow' 200 years ago Napoleon would have stayed Emperor of Europe, or 75 years ago Hitler would have had his 1,000 years Reich or 60 years ago Stalin would have rumbled through with his tanks. No Charles, there are times when principles are far more important than compromise and maintaining their hard won freedom (also known as sovereignty) is far far more important to the people of the UK than a succession of shabby deals to keep the overpaid boys and girls in Brussels happy. Sometimes it is necessary for politicians and peoples as a whole to make a stand and if a 'wet' consensus politician like Cameron feels it is necessry to do so then things must be really bad!

With its current approach Europe is heading for another disaster by ignoring its voters and pressing ahead with an ill thought out forced marriage of nation states that the general public on the whole does not support (as witnessed by the French and others killing off the original constitution in referenda). If you want Europe to stay peaceful Charles you should listen to Cameron and the UK people very closely or you'll compromise yourself into another European war when the ghastly edifice that is the EUSSR finally implodes.

Anonymous said...


What planet are you on?

Whatever the attitude adopted by the UK over the last few years nothing seems to work! There is no "best deal" for us in Europe.

As usual, UK interests have been undermined by dirty and dark horse trading which only undermines the EU as a whole.

"No one wants a war in Europe anymore" - who mentioned a war?!

The fact is that the EU is an unelected, unaccountable and out-of-touch shambles which, as their track record shows, is ruining large parts of Europe.

The UK population have never been asked for their approval when it comes to the EU and the tide is, thankfully, shifting towards us exiting.

The complete and utter disregard for national democratic systems has been a disgrace and is effectively a coup d'état across Europe.

Just get us out. The EU is becoming less important by the day as an important market and world power.


johnlandseer said...

I think the big losers here are the peoples of Europe.

No surprises about Renzi, Rutte or Rheinfeld. These are basically litte people in the scheme of things.

It must now be obvious, even to the optimists of OpenEurope that the EU cannot/will not/ does not want to change - it must go faster with integration in order to support the "bastard" currency that is the Euro.

The likely apt of Juncker is a lesson to all forward thinking euro realists - the EU is moving at great speed away from the UK's objectives of free trade, open markets and democracy - it can't last of course, but it might take another 4-5 years of euro penury of the peoples of the euroland/zone to find this out.

Oh, and OpenEurope - open your eyes too - to be a credible euro sceptic organisation, even you must now see that forever, being a quasi apologist for the EU is really no place for an informed, intelligent organisation to be - get off the pot....and, stop believing in the fairies.

Anonymous said...

Except in 1939.

Oh that was different and nothing like that could eve happen again.

Anonymous said...

Johnlandseer - What a wonderfully articulated comment. Bravo Sir, bravo!

One couldn't possibly put the current situation better in such few words. You get my vote

Rik said...

Except Jens Weidman the rest of Merkel's appointment for the big jobs have turned out to be a disaster or close to that.
Barosso iso Schroder
Draghi iso a German
LaGarde who has politicised the IMF that now runs a considerable chance of falling apart.
CDU no successor left

This simply looks like another one in the making.
Simply as far from being the guy who meets the requirements of this age for the EU as can be (with the exception of the other 2 'topcandidates').

Gives Cameron a good reason to become tough on things (simply block when the UK is necessary and has no advantage in it). Plus being able to blame the voter/backbench for it.

Not the best battle to start with. But with starting as short as possible another one that gets a lot of media attention, damage at home likely can be (very) limited.
A defeat never is a good thing but several fights in a row (providing he wins a few) will bring the message through that Cameron is serious on this to the large group of potential voters that are now mainly in the Ukip camp. Could be a larger plus at the end (electiontime will determine, this likely will be forgotten by then but a chain of fights not, providing he wins a couple).
But also vis-a-vis Labour and the LibDems people prefer a leader/fighter over a flip-flopper.

Peter van Leeuwen said...

Is an island “democracy”, where half the parliament is unelected and the other half unrepresentative of the popular vote really the place from which to make assertions about “democracy” or the “peoples of Europe”??? The wheel was once invented Mesopotania, but that doesn't make it THE place for cars and bicycles. Likewise, the UK had bette fix its own democracy before lecturing others.
In waging his latest war with the EU, Cameron is trying to ignore and belittle the directly elected European Parliament, something that other EU leaders aren't as ill advised to follow. Therefore the title of this article as a choice between London or Berlin is mistaken , as it is a choice between Britain and the EU. After his “veto” of the fiscal compact (december 2011) he now will “veto” Juncker, and the world will just move on. Playing the man (Juncker) instead of the ball (EC agenda) was never a clever strategy, unless Cameron is planning, for reasons of national political survival, to gradually become an anti-EU populist before the 2015 UK elections.

Denis Cooper said...

I see that Cameron is now threatening that if Juncker is appointed then there will be "consequences".

That must be really scary for Merkel, given Cameron's form on the threats front.

The point is that if he is going to issue noisy threats then he has to be prepared to go through with them, not just cave in as he has done on at least two previous occasions.

Jesper said...

The difference between being a populist and supporting democracy?

If the popular view supports the 'elite' then apparently there is democracy. If the popular view does not support the 'elite' then there is populism. Those are the definitions according to EU-federalists. Anyone with popular support but not supporting them is a populist.

Anonymous said...

Peter van Leeuwen ….Cameron is not waging a war with the EU. Do you really think the European Parliament is representative of the 395M voters in the EU. The EPP got barely 9.8% of these votes but thinks it has the right to self-select the next President of the EC. Is that democratic. I worked with the EC for 30 years and I know why the books have not been signed off in the last 20. There is fraud, inefficiency and widespread waste and incompetence - that's why. Do the people of Europe really want a United States of Socialist Europe (USSE) run by Germany? Look what happened to the USSR ..and think again.

Anonymous said...

More votes for UKIP. The quicker we leave and let this unelected rabble stew in their own downfall the better.

Luca Tonelli said...

i ll tell u what.

26 will choose berlin because the dominant class will choose.

with a referendum 26 countries out of 26 would choose for DEMOCRACY at their own home.

Peter van Leeuwen said...

@Anonymous: If you anonymously want to prove that you understand the term representative in elections, you'd have to do a little better better chap! 221/751 is about 30%. You do realise (employing your skewed logic) that the politician making now such a noise in the European Council was voted in by only 26571/47383500 = 0.06% of the population! :)
Furthermore, the EU is anything but “socialist”!. You have not been paying due attention those 30 years :)