An opinion poll out at the weekend could mean disappointment for the German socialist euro-fanatic Martin Schulz who wants to be the next president of the European Commission. A TNS poll reported in EU Observer shows that the centre-right parties in EU member states have edged ahead of the Social Democrats, and look likely to take 221 seats in the 751-seat assembly compared with 194 for the centre-left.
Schulz has up until now been certain the centre-left parties would be the largest group in the European Parliament. He has been insisting that such a result would compel the heads of state and government who make up the European Council to nominate him, the candidate of the left, to replace José Manuel Barroso at the commission.
Now by Shultz’s own argument, if centre-right candidates win the greatest number of seats in the elections at the end of this week, the council should instead nominate Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg who is the candidate of the centre-right grouping in the parliament.
The failure of Schulz to become president of the commission would be a great relief to David Cameron’s Government.
According to a report in the Times this morning Number 10 is trying to block the German Socialist Martin Schulz’s bid to become the next European Commission President, over his anti-reform views and fears that it would land a serious blow to the prime minister’s renegotiation plans: “Downing Street is making a last-ditch diplomatic effort to find European allies to block a leading opponent of Britain’s reform agenda from the top job in Brussels.”
At the same time, the UK Independence Party wants Schulz to take over the commission because his aggressive, confrontational style, his refusal to consider negotiating a return of powers to Britain and his demands that ever more national parliamentary sovereignty should be surrendered to the European Parliament would make him a recruiter for the eurosceptic ranks.
Juncker is a more emollient figure, but he came under attack by the Brussels press corps in 2011 when he was caught lying about a highly-important secret meeting of select EU finance ministers. He made matters worse by admitting he often “had to lie” and said: “I am for meetings in secret, dark debates.”
However, reporters always enjoyed Juncker’s occasional frank comments after late night eurozone meetings at which drink was apparently served.