Brussels veterans are doing some eye-rolling at David Cameron’s claim he will be the one to stop the European Parliament’s favourite, Jean-Claude Juncker, from becoming the next president of the European Commission.
Juncker may well be stopped – indeed, as of last night it looks like he already has been stopped — but it will German Chancellor Angela Merkel who does it, not Cameron.
Juncker is the ex-prime minister of Luxembourg who wants a United States of Europe.
The European Parliament is trying to railroad him into being the next president of the commission. Leaders of the parliament say the European Council must automatically back him because the group of centre-right parties in the parliament chose him as their candidate, and the centre-right parties won the most seats in the elections last week.
The heads of state and government who make up the European Council see this as a power grab by the parliament. The Lisbon Treaty says only that the council must “take into account” the outcome of the European Parliament elections when deciding on the next commission president, not be bound by them.
David Cameron sees the parliament’s move as a threat to any chance he has to present a “reformed” EU to the British electorate before the promised referendum in 2017: Juncker has already said that he is unwilling to negotiate any return of powers to the UK.
The council met for dinner last night to talk about how the elections will influence their choice of candidate for commission president. Chancellor Merkel made it clear she wanted to kill any idea that the council must automatically follow the parliament’s choice: “automaticity is not in the letter and spirit of the [EU] treaties,” she said.
Then she demanded that more candidates be considered: “At the end, there will be a fairly broad tableau of names on the table. Then one has to think of how one can accommodate the Socialists, the European People’s Party and so on.”
That stopped Juncker’s momentum, probably for good.
But it wasn’t Cameron and the little anti-Juncker coalition he put together of Britain, Hungary and Sweden that did it.
It was the Battleship Merkel.
Now France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Baltic States and Denmark are likely to join in her wake.
But just watch Steamboat Dave chug to the front of the convoy and claim he’s been leading it all along.