European election results: Moment of truth for Juncker

 
Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, 27 May Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels

As national EU leaders gather in Brussels to digest the results of the European elections - which gave several of them a bloody nose - the powers-that-be in the European Parliament have something else on their minds.

Parliamentary leaders are waiting to see whether their cunning plan to nominate the next president of the European Commission will actually bear fruit.

The centre-left Socialist group has, somewhat reluctantly, backed the bragging rights of the candidate from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), Jean-Claude Juncker.

"The EPP - despite substantial losses - remains the largest group in the European Parliament," said Johannes Swoboda, the head of the Socialist group in the outgoing parliament.

"Its candidate for commission president therefore has the clear right to start negotiations to seek a majority in the European Parliament."

When I asked Mr Juncker last week if he could direct me to the clause in the Lisbon treaty that gives him the "clear right" to be nominated, he looked at me with barely concealed distaste.

"You see it from your perspective," he said, "and I see it from mine. It's about democracy."

Let's (briefly) be clear. The Lisbon Treaty says EU leaders must take the results of the European elections into account when they decide whom to nominate.

The parliament gets to vote on the nomination, but it has also interpreted the treaty language to mean whichever parliamentary group wins the elections should automatically win the nomination as well.

Fireworks?

"Stretching it beyond credibility'" was the response of one sceptical official here, and we could now be on the verge of a big bust-up between the parliament and the European Council.

It's an institutional fight unlikely to impress voters who have just expressed a desire for Brussels to change the way it does business.

But parliamentary enthusiasts say that is precisely the point. They want no more deals behind closed doors.

Mr Juncker certainly has the support of quite a few national leaders, but efforts are also under way to derail his candidacy.

David Cameron isn't keen on a veteran federalist, and he can certainly count on a few allies. Hungary has declared its hand, and there may be others waiting in the wings.

Much will, as ever, depend on the attitude of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is doing what she often does - keeping her cards pretty close to her chest.

When Mr Juncker himself was asked yesterday what he thought about efforts to defeat his candidacy, he sounded a little world-weary.

"I don't care," he said. "I've already answered that question a thousand times… I'm not on my knees. We won the elections."

Stand by for fireworks.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 102.

    @84 I would prefer the Pax Romana as it meant the doors of the Temple of Janus were shut in peacetime,not much chance of that, I fear,what with the endless Wars,Votes on Wars,"Needs for Actions including force", and the like, taken on evidence that, as we have yet to see the Chilcot Rport, may,or may not, be as persuasive as an Ex-Prime Ministers' doubtless cogent views on UKIP and its supporters

  • Comment number 101.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 100.

    @72 Plaid Cymru wants the EU reformed so that Wales can take its place in the "European Family Of Nations" 1 MEP, 210,000 Welsh speakers, look out Luxembourg there is a new contender for "Universal Language, one that we are told is simple to learn and use, has no "Major Language" baggage, so why not impose Welsh as the Official Language? Makes as much sense as some of the EU drivel we must read

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 99.

    @76 The British system may well have taken 1000 years to attain its current position. Human life is still much shorter and the last time that there was an attempt to get a 1000 year reach quickly it all ended in tears. the low turnouts across the EU show the vast welling of general support for this beloved Institution,the despair of minority groups such as its Auditors,but who cares about them?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 98.

    @20 Here in Wales the main spending is on the Valleys and cities as that is where the bigger population is based. We have full rights to pay£67 million for S4C,whose viewing share drops every year, and on which we have just had the Annual hectoring from a Media Manager that we should be glad to do so.THAT is not put to any vote in Wales either. We must all be forcefed Urdd Eisteddfod,regardless

 

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