The European Commission has denied claims its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, could stand down in weeks, as reports emerge he is about to launch a controversial new push for more European Union (EU) integration.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica quoted numerous European sources in a report on Monday, claiming Mr. Juncker is at crossroads and will decide whether or not to continue his term within four weeks.
However, speaking to RAI, European Commission Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas denied the reports and said that Mr. Juncker “will not resign”.
Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva claimed Mr. Juncker “is here to stay and fight all the crises that Europe is facing, from Grexit to Brexit, and the migration crisis. He is as motivated as his first day in office.”
Mr. Juncker is a committed federalist who has long advocated deeper integration whilst opposing Eurosceptics and the rise of nationalist sentiment across the continent. He also oversaw the migrant crisis and is seen as weak on immigration.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a liberal who is about to fight the anti-mass migration Eurosceptic Geert Wilders in an election, is said to be pushing for Mr. Juncker to go.
Mr. Juncker’s departure could help him convince voters the EU is listening to their concerns on immigration and the erosion of national sovereignty.
Furthermore, Mr. Rutte is urging Mr. Juncker to shelve a White Paper about “re-launching” the European project after Brexit, advocating more integration, which could also help Mr. Wilders in the up-and-coming election.
Despite the Commission strongly denying Mr. Juncker is considering stepping down, he has signalled he is tiring of the job in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, he said he had ruled out running for a second term, whilst telling a German radio station he feared that Brexit will drive the remaining 27 countries against each other “without much effort”.
EU member states are becoming even more divided over opinions that “are not necessarily compatible,” he said, referencing Hungary and Poland.
“Do the Hungarians or the Poles want exactly the same thing as the Germans or the French? I have huge doubts. You have to create a fundamental consensus again. That’s a job for the next two or three years,” Mr. Juncker added