A report leaked to the British Tory press that Jean-Claude Juncker, the frontrunner to be the next president of the European Commission, was “dead drunk,” vulgar and aggressive in a meeting in 2007 when he was prime minister of Luxembourg raises the question not so much whether the report could be true, but why and how it was leaked now, just when David Cameron’s campaign to stop Juncker taking the EU’s top job looked set to fail.
Cameron has no hope of winning his promised 2017 referendum on EU membership unless he can win substantial return of powers from the EU to Britain. Juncker has already made clear that, if he were to be head of the commission, he would be unwilling to hand back any powers.
Cameron was reported to have told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that putting Juncker at the top of the commission could mean Britain leaves the EU.
This is why many eurosceptics support the nomination of Juncker as head of the commission: “Worse is better.”
The fact that Juncker enjoys a drink has never been a secret within the EU institutions. His late night appearances in the press room while he was head of the eurogroup, which brings together the finance ministers of the countries using the euro, were welcomed by reporters because he provided occasional volubility and indiscretion other officials did not offer.
However, it is unlikely that if Juncker’s behaviour were “dead drunk” or even just vulgar and aggressive finance ministers would have tolerated him remaining as head of their eurogroup during the eurocrisis.
Nor indeed would the centre-right European People’s Party group of the European Parliament, which nominated Juncker as their candidate to be president of the European Commission, have backed him so strongly. Juncker has been doing the rounds of dinner parties, cocktail parties and wine-fuelled EU conferences for decades, so his personal behaviour is well known to the euro-elite.
All of which makes the timing of the leak of an account of a single alleged incident which occurred seven years ago suspicious, especially since it comes from former members of a European intelligence service just after President Obama visited Brussels and declared he did not want to see Britain leave the EU.
The Times attributed their story to two witnesses, one of whom was André Kemmer, a former member of the Service de Renseignement de l’État (SREL) Luxembourg’s intelligence service.
Kemmer’s account says in part: “Towards evening we arrived in his office. It smelled of stale tobacco and an alarming scent of alcohol was in the air. Half staggering, he stepped out from behind his desk . . .”
“Juncker was dead drunk, ordered himself two espressos and asked us to take a seat at the table. Without introductory words he began to insult Mille [then head of SREL]: ‘I f*** around where, whom, and when I want, do you understand me? You could also f***, but you cannot really do it, your German correctness … it forbids you.”
Another former intelligence officer present was said to have corroborated the account. However, he added: “I had a few other meetings with him and never saw him like that. The other times he was normal, very correct.”
The Cameron-supporting Times, which published repeated personal attacks on Nigel Farage during the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament, published the Juncker story today, including this passage which ends with the ambiguous addition of an anonymous quote from a German newspaper:
“It was alleged that Jean Claude Juncker smelt of alcohol and fired a volley of expletives at the head of intelligence services for about five minutes. The claims come amid growing signs that Mr Juncker’s attempt to become president of the European Commission is struggling, in the face of bitter public opposition from David Cameron.”
“Aides to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, told Der Spiegel that they expected that Mr Juncker would withdraw from consideration for the job.”
However, the story in Der Spiegel from which that quote appears to be taken in fact makes no mention that Juncker should stand down because of allegations of drunkenness.
Rather, Der Spiegel suggests Juncker’s bid might fail because of the opposition of Britain to his nomination and worries in the German federal government about causing a break with Britain – speculation that has been widespread since the success of the centre-right in the elections to the European Parliament last month put Juncker at the top of the parliament’s list as next commission president.
Breitbart London reported yesterday that Juncker has been complaining about the interest the British press has taken in him, and warned his followers to be ready for “a lot more dirt.”