A year after Jean-Claude Juncker took charge of what he called the “last chance” European Commission, his plans to win back sceptical voters have been partly sidelined by existential threats like the migrant and Greek crises, analysts say.
The former Luxembourg prime minister vowed when he took the reins of the 28-nation EU’s executive arm in November 2014 to be more “political” than his Portuguese predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso.
That meant fewer rules about the shape of cucumbers and other red tape that had given Brussels a bad name, and more dealing with the bigger issues affecting increasingly disillusioned Europeans.
But while the Commission has not been afraid to be proactive, even if it annoys member states, that has failed to translate into wider support for Europe — as the victory of eurosceptics in Polish elections last weekend shows.
“The final verdict is still out,” Janis Emmanouilidis of Brussels-based think-tank the European Policy Centre (EPC) told AFP.
“This Commission and Juncker try to act much more political. With the migration issue they are facing now the second fundamental and serious crisis after the Greek-euro crisis. We will see only at the end if their actions were a success or a failure.”
Daniel Gros of the Centre for European Policy said Juncker’s Commission had been “more political than usual, it tries to act wherever there is a problem”
During the Greek debt crisis, Juncker, 60, took a high-profile role.
He abandoned the Commission’s usual neutrality to urge Greeks to vote in favour of a bailout in a referendum and acted as a back-channel negotiator.
Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II, meanwhile, has seen the Juncker Commission jumping in where member states were slow to tread, setting out plans in the spring for quotas to share out Syrian refugees around the EU.
EU nations accepted the plans after months of wrangling, though some observers say the debate wasted time that could have been spent shoring up the continent’s borders.