Jean-Claude Juncker is on course to be nominated for European Commission president over U.K. objections, said a leading politician from a party that put forward a rival candidate.
Hannes Swoboda, head of the Socialists in the European Parliament, said he expects Europe’s leaders to propose Juncker for commission chief when they meet June 26-27. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who has spearheaded a campaign against Juncker, risks being out-voted by fellow heads of government.
“More and more it’s clear Mr. Juncker will be nominated,” Swoboda told reporters today in Brussels. “Mr. Cameron put himself in a corner. I don’t know how he will get out.”
Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, has been the No. 1 contender to be the next head of the commission, the 28-nation European Union’s executive arm, since EU Parliament elections last month.
He ran as the candidate of Europe’s Christian Democrats as part of the May 22-25 balloting in which they won the biggest share -- 29 percent -- of seats. A new treaty rule requires national leaders to take “into account” the election result when picking a commission-president nominee, who will have to be approved by the 751-seat Parliament in a vote scheduled for mid-July.
“It’s democratically legitimate that Mr. Juncker will be asked to look for a majority in Parliament,” said Swoboda, whose Socialist group came in second with 25 percent of the assembly’s seats. “Mr. Juncker can get one. I don’t see any other personalities who can.”
A total of five pan-European parties including the Socialists put forward candidates for the top commission job in the run-up to the legislative elections, seeking to prevent a “back-room” deal by national leaders and to enable the EU Parliament to determine the pick for the first time.
Cameron has said that this effort has “no legitimacy” in Britain and that Juncker is too much of an advocate of a centralized EU to be a suitable choice to succeed Portugal’s Jose Barroso atop the commission, which proposes and enforces EU laws, monitors national economies and negotiates trade deals. Barroso’s second five-year term is due to end in October.
In remarks today, Cameron said he would remain against Juncker and stressed British objections to the principle of letting the EU Parliament put forward the head of the commission.
“I’ll go on opposing that right up to the end,” Cameron told reporters in London.
Critics of Cameron in the EU say he’s seeking to undermine an attempt to make governance of the bloc more democratic in a bid to appease growing anti-European voices in the U.K.
“The meaning and purpose of the European elections are at stake,” Elmar Brok, a German member of the EU Parliament and the president of the Union of European Federalists, said in an e-mailed statement today. “This process can’t be disregarded because of the internal political problems in the United Kingdom.”
Juncker has the support of most EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. With no individual government head having veto power over the choice of a nominee, Cameron is seeking to derail Juncker’s bid with the help of nations including the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the bloc’s summits, has been consulting with European lawmakers including Swoboda about the nomination process in the run-up to the June 26-27 gathering.
Swoboda, an Austrian who didn’t stand last month for re-election to the EU Parliament, said Cameron will lack the votes among the bloc’s leaders to prevent Juncker’s nomination.
Swoboda criticized Cameron for earlier this month linking the result of a possible in-or-out U.K. referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2017 to the bloc’s decision on Juncker.
“To work with threats as Cameron did is not acceptable,” said Swoboda.
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