U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron made a direct appeal to European voters in his campaign to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.
In an article written for European newspapers, Cameron said the appointment of the former Luxembourg prime minister would risk politicizing the commission and further alienating voters who showed their discontent with the EU in last month’s European Parliament elections.
“Now is the time to propose a candidate who will convince Europe’s voters we are acting upon their concerns,” Cameron said in the article, published in Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung and elsewhere. “Britain has a reputation for standing up for democracy and for fighting for our national interest, but this is about fighting for the European interest.”
Juncker, who was prime minister of Luxembourg for 19 years, is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favored candidate to head the commission, the Brussels-based body that proposes and enforces regulations across the 28-nation EU, negotiates trade accords and monitors national economies. The rift is straining relations at a time when Cameron needs Merkel to help him deliver reform that would keep the U.K. in the EU.
Merkel hasn’t moved away from her backing for Juncker, her spokesman said today.
“She will work in support of finding a majority” in the EU in support of his candidacy, Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. He said it’s “good and right” for Cameron to express his views, which are “nothing surprising for the chancellor as she knows his position from intensive talks.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference after a cabinet meeting in The Hague that the Netherlands has nothing against Juncker. The Luxembourger “is one candidate and we can imagine he’ll eventually become” the head of the commission, Rutte said. “But that isn’t certain yet.”
The Cameron-Merkel relationship was struck a further blow yesterday when the premier’s Conservative Party was drawn into a political alliance in the European Parliament with Alternative for Germany, an anti-euro party that assails the chancellor for wasting taxpayers’ money on bailing out southern European economies during the sovereign debt crisis.
In his article, Cameron rejected the selection by the main groupings in the European Parliament of Spitzenkandidaten, the German for lead candidates, and their agreement before the election to give the top commission job to the candidate whose parties won the most seats. Juncker was the candidate of the European People’s Party, which includes Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
That was a “back-room” deal, not agreed by European leaders or ratified by national parliaments, Cameron said.
“Supporters of Spitzenkandidaten argue that the elections have happened, the people of Europe have chosen Jean-Claude Juncker as commission president and that it would be undemocratic for elected national leaders to choose anyone else,” Cameron wrote.
“This is nonsense,” he said, “Nowhere was Mr. Juncker on the ballot paper. Even in Germany, where the concept of Spitzenkandidaten got the most airtime, only 15 percent of voters even knew he was a candidate.”
Cameron insisted his opposition is not an attack on Juncker, whom he acknowledged as being “an experienced European politician.” Appointing Juncker would represent a breach of EU rules, which are enshrined in international law, the U.K. premier said.