Merkel Cites Vote Option on EU Leadership as Cameron Balks

Chancellor Angela Merkel left the door open to a vote on the European Union’s top executive job, signaling to Prime Minister David Cameron that the U.K. won’t have a veto.

“You know the majority -- it’s a qualified majority,” Merkel told reporters yesterday in Berlin. Even so, she said she’s working “for the greatest degree of consensus” as 28 EU governments seek to agree on the next European Commission head.

Merkel renewed her backing for former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European party group that includes her Christian Democratic Union. Juncker ran into U.K.-led resistance at a May 27-28 EU summit.

Cameron’s role is taking on added significance after Der Spiegel reported that he warned Merkel on the fringes of the summit that insisting on Juncker might put the U.K. on a path toward leaving the EU. Germany’s goal is to keep the U.K. in, Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said yesterday.

Merkel is caught between that goal and pressure from supporters of Juncker, including her Social Democrat coalition partner, after her and Juncker’s European People’s Party won the most votes in European Parliament elections that ended May 25.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth, a Social Democrat, said Cameron’s reported warning wouldn’t help him.

“The British government certainly knows that this is neither in Britain’s interest nor can they block Juncker as Commission president,” Roth said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Voting Power

Under EU rules, Cameron would need to muster 64 votes in addition to the U.K.’s 29 in the unlikely event of a show of hands among EU leaders. Countries’ weighted votes range from a maximum of 29, which Germany, France and Italy also have, to three for Malta. The total is 352.

Possible Cameron allies in any vote on Juncker include the Netherlands with 13 votes, Hungary, which has 12, and Sweden with 10. That would still leave Cameron 29 votes short.

At the EU summit in Brussels three days after the election, European leaders resisted calls to lock in Juncker as Commission president, tying the appointment to a broader package of top EU posts.

Juncker’s detractors said his advocacy of a more centrally steered EU makes him the wrong man for the top post following a surge in anti-EU sentiment in the European elections. Juncker, 59, was an architect of the euro in the 1990s and led negotiations since 2010 that helped save the currency.

Cameron, 47, said he would back a candidate who “is about openness, competitiveness and flexibility, and not about the past.”

“I’m not indifferent to whether Great Britain is a member of the EU or not,” Merkel said yesterday. “Rather, we should make every effort, even if it requires controversial decisions, to ensure that this European spirit lives on.”

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