U.K.’s Clegg Hits Phones to Oppose Juncker as EU Commission Head

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been calling leaders across Europe to oppose the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission.

As David Cameron traveled to Sweden to urge German Chancellor Angela Merkel to drop her support for the former Luxembourg prime minister, Clegg, who has clashed with the British premier over reform of the European Union, was pushing Cameron’s case.

“It’s incredibly important we preserve the integrity, the authority and independence of the European Commission,” Clegg said in an interview in London today. “We mustn’t establish the precedent that the European Union commission president is hand-picked by the Parliament.”

Juncker has said he should get the job on the basis that he’s the candidate of the European People’s Party, the group of national political parties that won most seats in the European Parliament elections last month. Cameron and Merkel are due to meet later today with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who signaled opposition to Juncker in a Financial Times interview published today, and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands.

Cameron repeatedly said during the election campaign that Clegg’s Liberal Democrat party wants to see no reform of the EU, a statement Clegg dismissed as “reprehensible” today. Clegg, who speaks French, Spanish, Dutch and German, said he’s been making calls to European leaders whose languages he knows to press the case against Juncker.

“We allowed our opponents to suggest that we think the status quo in Brussels is just fine -- we don’t think it’s fine,” Clegg said earlier today in a speech at Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London.

‘More Open’

“It’s precisely because I value Britain’s place in Europe that I’ve not only campaigned for reform, but in the 10 years I spent in Europe I’ve probably done more to make Brussels less bureaucratic, more open and more in line with Britain’s interests than any other party leader,” he said. Clegg is a former commission official and a former member of the European Parliament.

The appointment of Juncker would upset the balance between the commission and the European institutions that was set in place when the union was founded in the 1950s, Clegg said in the interview. The decision should be made by the European Council, made up of national governments, as outlined in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, he said.

“The whole point of the commission was that it was not at the beck and call of the other institutions, but could act as an independent authority to police the rules of the game against big vested interests,” Clegg said. He said a lot of the leaders he’s been calling “will entirely agree with the argument, but for one reason or another, often very good reasons, they’ll be reluctant to say it.”

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