German Chancellor Angela Merkel still holds out hope of persuading British Prime Minister David Cameron to accept her candidate for the European Union’s top post, according to a person familiar with her strategy.
While Cameron showed no sign of easing his opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission at a meeting in Sweden earlier this week, the chancellor sees a chance that she can convince him to accept Juncker as part of an EU reform package, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private.
The discussions leading up to an EU summit on June 26-27 in Brussels are about the EU’s agenda for the next five years and not just personnel, the person said. Merkel is betting Cameron would find a growth-friendly program that promises EU reform palatable to the U.K., even if that would be tied to Juncker being installed at the commission, the person said.
“Angela Merkel will stick with Juncker,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party who heads parliament’s interior affairs committee, said by phone. “In the end, it’ll probably come down to a package solution with a combination of personnel and content issues.”
The chancellor will meet with several EU leaders in the coming two weeks before the summit, including Xavier Bettel, Juncker’s successor as Luxembourg prime minister, and Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, according to the person.
The question of who leads the commission after its mandate expires in October has exposed divisions within the 28-nation bloc. Most leaders have sided with the directly elected European Parliament in supporting Juncker, who was Luxembourg’s premier for 19 years, while a group led by Cameron says he is too strong an advocate of a centralized EU to represent all the bloc’s nations.
Cameron has said the message from European elections in May was that leaders must choose a commission chief who is “not about the past.”
‘The prime minister’s view hasn’t changed and won’t change,’’ Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London today.
In Merkel’s view, British newspapers are being driven by domestic and not European considerations in their reporting of Juncker’s candidacy and the commission race, the person said.
The chancellor’s goal is a unified position among all EU countries, according to the person. A decision about commission posts might only be reached at the summit, the person said.
The EU must become more competitive and in order to do so “we have to concentrate on the substance,” Merkel said at a reception for the diplomatic corps in Berlin last night.