Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that Britain would fail if it tried to stop the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next head of the European Commission.
‘‘It is no tragedy if we end up voting with only a qualified majority,’’ Dr Merkel told the Bundestag, referring to a system of weighted voting that would be held if European Union leaders could not reach their usual consensus on the candidacy.
Mr Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, led the centre-right bloc that won European Parliament elections in May, but he is seen by Prime Minister David Cameron as the kind of remote technocrat who stirs anti-EU sentiment. Anger at Brussels propelled nationalist and populist parties to their strongest showing in last month’s vote since European elections started in 1979.
Mr Cameron spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Dr Merkel and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, to underline his opposition to Mr Juncker’s candidacy to lead the European Commission, the union’s executive arm. In a statement, Mr Cameron’s office said the leaders agreed that if a consensus could not be reached, a vote should be held in Brussels on Friday. Mr Cameron's perferred candidate is former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy. Mr Van Rompuy is the current President of the European Council, a non-legislative body.
In a further blow to the British Prime Minister, Mr Cameron has lost the support of the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who, according to Swedish news reports, said on Wednesday that he would not try to block Mr Juncker’s nomination if he had a qualified majority of the votes.
In the past, Europe’s heads of government selected the commission candidate. But this year, the centre-right bloc won support for its idea that the winner of the Parliament’s elections should also get the presidency.
Mr Cameron appears to believe that his position at home, where he must call elections by the middle of next year, will be strengthened by a show of resistance to Brussels. He has promised that if he is re-elected next year, he will hold a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union by 2017, partly in response to pressure from Eurosceptics in his own Conservative Party and the success of the far-right UK Independence Party.
Dr Merkel went out of her way this month to underscore Britain’s importance to the 28-nation European Union. Germany views Britain as a bastion of liberal economic thinking that helps dampen the statism of France and what Berlin views as the profligate tendencies of southern European countries.
The New York Times