|Newly elected President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker|
If any proof was needed of the direction in which the European Union is heading, look no further than today’s appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to the post of President of the European Commission, one of the two most powerful jobs in Brussels. Despite the bold and resolute opposition of Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Juncker cruised to victory in a highly undemocratic contest in which he was the only candidate, backed by almost every European head of government including the influential German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Juncker is far from being a household name in Britain; he served as Prime Minister of Luxembourg for eighteen years before stepping down last year, and is a leading member of the centre-right European People’s Party which topped last month’s elections. A bland, grey figure, he is the archetypal EU bureaucrat very much out of the same mould as European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, who was famously described by Nigel Farage as having ‘the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk.’
Nevertheless, Mr Juncker’s obscurity and blandness means that he is the perfect front-man for today’s EU, aided by his overarching vision for where Europe should be heading. David Cameron has attacked Juncker as an ‘arch-federalist’ who is part of the European old-guard and who will oppose any attempts at reform, and in wake of today’s result the Prime Minister conceded that Juncker’s win makes the possibility of renegotiation much harder.
Here in Britain, Prime Minister Cameron has not been alone in his opposition to Mr Juncker; indeed, all three main parties had declared that he is not a suitable candidate to lead the European Commission. However, once again Britain has found itself isolated in a Europe which is happy to anoint a federalist bureaucrat to such a powerful position, with only Hungary choosing to side with David Cameron. Indeed, Angela Merkel, largely seen as Europe’s most influential head of government, made it clear that British support for Juncker wasn’t needed and that Cameron’s stance would not stand in the way of his appointment.
Time will tell whether Mr Juncker’s personal defects prevent him from carrying out his new position effectively; media reports in the last few days have described him as a heavy drinker who is lazy and lacks motivation, and these could be qualities which eventually lead to his downfall. However, by taking the stance that he has, David Cameron has once again proved that he is prepared to stand up for British interests, even if this leaves him isolated and alone amongst his fellow European leaders.
This is not the first time that Cameron has gone against the grain in Europe. Soon after his election as Conservative Party leader he withdrew the Conservatives from the European People’s Party, which he viewed as being too federalist, and helped to set up the European Conservatives and Reformists, a right-wing alliance of moderately Eurosceptic parties. Today’s selection of Jean-Claude Juncker is a major setback for any hope of renegotiation and reform, and as a result the Prime Minister will have to take the option of British withdrawal from the EU far more seriously.
Also published on my personal blog: http://georgereeves1994.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/junckers-victory-is-proof-of-where-eu.html