On Tuesday night at a European Council meeting in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not keen on the idea of Jean-Claude Juncker, former prime minister of Luxembourg and leading eurofanatic, becoming the next president of the European Commission.
This was a relief to David Cameron, since Juncker has made it plain that as commission president he would not negotiate the return of any powers to Britain before Cameron’s promised in/out referendum.
But over this weekend – the Ascension Day holiday in the Continental countries – the Open Europe think tank is wondering if there might be a belated Ascension Day for Juncker.
The Open Europe blog says that since Tuesday, Merkel “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 [Social Democratic Party], the opposition Green party, Germany’s most popular tabloid Bild Zeitung and Jürgen Habermas [a German intellectual].”
While on Tuesday night, Merkel said that when the council discusses who should get the commission job “there will be a fairly broad tableau of names on the table,” earlier this afternoon she said, “I am conducting all the discussions in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should be the President of the European Commission.”
This is a swivel so fast that it threatens Merkel with whiplash and Cameron with nausea.
An official at the SPD was quick to respond, trying to make sure Juncker becomes commission president, since he is the leading candidate of the European Parliament:
“It is good that the public pressure on Merkel forced her to correct her stance. Anything else would have been cheating the voters.”
But, asks Open Europe, is a deal done? “No,” they say, “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.”
Or as Breitbart London reported on Wednesday, it is the Battleship Merkel who will decide on whether Juncker gets the job, not Steamboat Dave, and France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Baltic States and Denmark are likely to follow in her wake.