European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is reported to be in an “EU Depressed” mood following the failure of the continent’s migration policy, and a potential break-up of the European Union under his tenure following a Brexit vote according to Brussels insiders.
The news comes as rumours circulate that Mr. Juncker is due to make a major intervention in the EU referendum debate in Britain next week.
The revelation of the coming interference from the European Commission from German news magazine Der Spiegel comes as a major profile on the President of the European Commission reveals his deteriorating political position within the Union and rumored departure from the Commission.
Europe’s Politico describes a Commission notionally led by Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg often characterised as ‘Druncker’ for his famous love of alcohol as having lurched from crisis to crisis with no clear direction. Now the president, despite his planned grand-standing on Britain’s membership of the European Union is described as having been “sidelined” within his own Commission, “politically paralyzed”, and with worsening health.
Officials close to Mr. Juncker report his optimism about the European Project to be fading, as his mood “darkened”. One ‘senior EU official’ said: “He is less and less positive about the EU and the abilities of the member states in particular”.
“You can say he is EU-depressed. He has decided simply to focus hard on a few things, especially migration and Greece. The rest doesn’t matter to him”.
Indeed, despite the official duties that fall on Mr. Juncker — who reportedly prefers to work from Luxembourg rather than Brussels — his senior colleagues are already getting on with the job without him. One ‘senior diplomat’ was quoted as saying: “The truth is we don’t see him… People don’t complain here because he is not indispensable to the everyday functioning of the EU. We sometimes don’t notice his absence”.
According to the report, officials privately admit the best they and the EU can now hope for is for the “Commission to muddle through the next three years” until the end of Mr. Juncker’s term of office when he can be quietly replaced.
In the meanwhile, reports about Mr. Juncker suggests an unwillingness to work with those from outside his narrow clique. Veteran British Conservative Member of the European Parliament Geoffrey Van Orden said of the President that “He only really wants to listen to people who agree with the Euro-federalist line and the rest he regards as mavericks and populists”.
Given his love of Euro-federalists, it is likely Mr. Juncker was happy to listen to David Cameron when, conscious of the very bad reputation the Commission enjoys in the United Kingdom, he pleaded with the President to keep out of the referendum debate. Although he was moved to speak out last week, remarking “deserters will not be welcomed back”, Cameron’s request seems to have been largely fulfilled — until now.
Der Spiegel reports the condition of the Commission’s silence over the referendum, which many have suggested could trigger the end of the European Union or even “Western political civilisation”, is that the campaign goes well and ‘remain’ ride high in the polls. Now the most recent polling puts ‘Brexit’ leave voters well ahead, giving the Commission president his “loophole” to get stuck in.
Mr. Juncker will no doubt hope to use the political clout he hasn’t already delegated away to keep Britain in the EU, just as he swore at the time of taking up his presidency to reinvigorate the Commission and have it take a greater role. He said in 2014: “Citizens are losing faith. Extremists on the Left and Right are nipping at our heels.… It is time we breathed a new lease on life into the European project”.
Unfortunately for him, in two years public trust in the Commission has collapsed, and insurgent populist-right parties have flourished across Europe, campaigning to dismantle — or at least muzzle — the European project.
Given the control slipping from Mr. Juncker’s fingers, it may be just possible that his forthcoming intervention on Britain’s sovereignty might be just as successful.