The so-called ‘political earthquake’ that occurred over the European elections has possibly delayed the process of Jean- Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg Prime Minster, being named as the next President of the European Commission. The results of the Front National in France have caused President Hollande to state that urgent reform of the EU is needed (even though just a couple of months before he told David Cameron that it was not a prioroity) and UKIP’s victory has led to a much more Eurosceptic David Cameron. Tony Blair, who was prevented from becoming President of the European Council in 2008, has said that the results are a ‘wake- up call’.
The greatest victor from these results is our very own David Cameron. The rise of Eurosceptic behaviour will only help his push for reform in Europe ready for the proposed referendum in 2017. Of course, the decision on who will replace Jose Manual Barroso will have a serious role in this and with the rise of Eurosceptic fever, you would have thought this was a prime time for a reformer to take centre stage. Instead, we see the arch federalist or ‘raving’ federalist as Nigel Farage puts it lining up to take one of Europe’s prestigious positions.
His appointment would be disastrous for Cameron and arguably other European leaders who were hit hard by Eurosceptic parties. Farage will visit every TV station barking out the fact that Cameron is weak on Europe; Marine Le Pen will do the same in France. This is why Cameron and other leaders such as Mateo Renzi (who however, did very well in the European elections), Francois Hollande and both the Dutch and Hungarian Prime Ministers.
This brings us back to David Cameron. Juncker has previously publicly claimed that he is not favourable towards Cameron’s idea of reform. Over the past few days, the relationship between the two has seriously deteriorated with Juncker claiming that Cameron is blackmailing the European Union. It was claimed before the elections that Juncker, who is the candidate form the Centre Right European People’s Party (EPP) was not supported by Cameron as no British parties were represented in that bloc. After becoming Conservative leader, Cameron moved his MEP’s into the newly created European Conservatives and Reformists. Juncker stated that ‘the question is not whether we are supported in Great Britain’.
Therefore, if Juncker gets the job, which following the Lisbon Treaty, states that the candidate of the largest party should get the job (which is the EPP), Cameron has essentially signed away anyway chance of getting the significant reform in Europe that he wants. He was criticised for blocking his appointment too early. Instead, the sensible option would have been to play out it for a longer period and see how other governments responded.
With Angela Merkel’s backing, Juncker is most probably going to be the next President. Other names have been touted such as the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and head of the IMF Christine Lagarde. The problem with ‘outside’ candidates however, is that the European Parliament will not accept them. The Parliament has to accept the nominee by an absolute majority of 376. If the Centre Left Socialist and Democrats Group vote with the European People’s Party (which they may do to ensure a pro-EU commissioner) then Juncker is essentially safe. National leaders can attempt to block, but it is insure how successful they will be.
The problem for Cameron is that Juncker will make it difficult to reform Europe, a Cameron’s attitude to his possible appointment will not help matters. When interviewed, Conservative minsters state they are very certain they will get reform and therefore they will vote to stay in a reformed EU. However, if Juncker is appointed, ministers are going to have state how they would vote if they cannot reform Europe. If Cameron make a wrong move with this, especially with UKIP, a party which simply is looking indestructible at the current time, the consequences would be dire for him and the party.