Juncker Boosted as EU’s Christian Democrats Widen LeadJonathan Stearns
Europe’s Christian Democrats widened their lead over other political groups in the European Parliament after last month’s elections, bolstering Jean-Claude Juncker’s bid to take over the bloc’s top executive job.
The Christian Democrats won 221, or 29 percent, of the 751 seats in the incoming European Union assembly, according to an update it released yesterday in Brussels of the May 22-25 election results. That compares with 214 seats estimated June 2 and last week.
Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, is the Christian Democrats’ candidate for president of the European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm that proposes and enforces legislation, acts as the bloc’s antitrust authority, administers its 140 billion-euro ($191 billion) budget and negotiates trade deals. Jose Barroso, the current commission chief, is due to step down when his second five-year term ends in October.
“I am more confident than ever that I will be the next European Commission president,” Juncker, who was the EU’s longest-serving leader when he was ousted from the Luxembourg premier’s office in December following national elections, said today in a posting on Twitter.
Five European political parties put forward candidates for the top commission job in the run-up to the legislative elections, seeking to take advantage of a new treaty rule that requires the EU’s national leaders to take “into account” the result when picking a nominee. The Socialists’ candidate is Martin Schulz, a German who is president of the EU Parliament.
The Socialists remain the second-biggest group in the Parliament with 189 seats, or 25 percent of the total, according to the latest election results. Their seat total is unchanged from June 2 and below an estimate of 191 last week.
The pro-business Liberals are still third with 59 seats, down from an estimate of 65 on June 2 and 64 last week. The Greens are unchanged in fourth place with 52 seats. Final results are due later this month.
Juncker, who also gained recognition in his dual role as head of the group of euro-area finance ministers during the debt crisis, is counting on the support of national Christian Democrat leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on EU rules that deny veto power to individual opponents such as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.
At a May 27 meeting in Brussels, European government heads resisted calls to lock in Juncker as commission president, tying the appointment to a package of top EU posts. Negotiations are due to last until the next EU summit on June 26-27 and the Parliament plans to vote in July on a nominee to succeed Barroso, who is Portuguese.
Manfred Weber, a German member of the EU Parliament who was chosen today by its Christian Democrats to be their new floor leader, predicted Juncker would be proposed by the bloc’s leaders to be commission chief.
“My aim is to vote in July in favor of a new commission president and the name should be and will be Jean-Claude Juncker,” Weber told reporters today in Brussels.
Weber succeeds Joseph Daul, a Frenchman who didn’t run for re-election to the Parliament, as chairman of its Christian Democrat faction, also known as the European People’s Party group.