Angela Merkel still backing Juncker for EU top job

(L-R) Dutch PM Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron and Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt an informal meeting on 9 June 2014 in in Harpsund, Sweden. Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt (far right) was hosting the talks at his summer residence in Harpsund

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Germany's Angela Merkel has restated her support for Jean-Claude Juncker to take over as president of the European Commission, at a mini-summit in Sweden.

The chancellor said that while she was "happy" to say she wanted Mr Juncker for the top job, it was not "the main topic" of the two-day talks.

British PM David Cameron, who wants a less federalist candidate, said reform of EC policies had been the priority.

The Swedish and Dutch prime ministers also took part in the talks.

The European Council - representing the EU's 28 heads of state - is due to announce its Commission candidate later this month.

The leaders have traditionally named the Commission head on their own. However, new rules mean they now have to "take into account" the results of the European Parliament elections, which were won in May by Mr Juncker's centre-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc.

But Britain is leading a campaign to block his candidacy. Sweden's Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte are thought to back Mr Cameron's position but did not address the issue with reporters on Tuesday.

"We have agreed that the future policy priorities of the EU must be decided before we can decide on appointments of different top jobs," Mr Reinfeldt said.

Correspondents say the scene has been set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament, with the UK worried about the prospect of a "stitch-up".

David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Fredrik Reinfeldt and Mark Rutte talk in a boat near the summer residence of the Swedish Prime Minister The four leaders took to the river for a spot of relaxation before the talks began in earnest
'Unhelpful'

The four centre-right politicians met in Harpsund, near the capital, Stockholm, to try to reach a consensus on European reform.

Job creation, economic growth and structural reforms to boost EU competitiveness were also discussed at the meeting, which finished on Tuesday morning.

David Cameron said that the four centre-right leaders should work together

Mrs Merkel said the focus had been on "policy, which is what is really important for Europe and its citizens".

"I have said it in Germany and so I will again here: Jean-Claude Juncker is my candidate for the position of Commission president and I want to have him as Commission president," she told journalists at the end of the meeting.

"But that hasn't been the main point. We didn't talk about hypothetical situations and we don't have to answer questions about them."

Mr Cameron, who strongly opposes Mr Juncker's belief in a closer political union between EU member states, said the right leaders were needed to reform Europe.

"If the European Union doesn't go in that direction, that would be unhelpful," he said.

Mr Cameron has promised British voters a referendum on EU citizenship in 2017, if he gets re-elected next year.

"Obviously the approach that the European Union takes between now and then will be very important," he added.

Solution needed

The European Council's president, Herman Van Rompuy, told the BBC the dispute over Mr Juncker was "not a conflict between Britain and Germany".

"We all have to find a solution for the nomination of the president of the Commission," said Mr Van Rompuy, who has been given the task by EU leaders of negotiating with the EU Parliament about their chosen candidate.

European Council President Herman van Rompuy said the row was "not a conflict between Britain and Germany"

The Commission president is the most powerful job in Brussels, shaping EU policy in key areas such as economic reform, immigration and ties with other global powers.

The EPP - the largest centre-right grouping in the parliament - won the most seats in May's polls, and Mr Juncker has argued that gives him the mandate.

The decision will be made by the European Council by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.

The result is due to be announced at an EU summit on 26-27 June, although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.

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Jean-Claude Juncker: The numbers game
Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker The German chancellor has given Jean-Claude Juncker her backing
  • EU leaders split over whether Jean-Claude Juncker can drive the changes many want in the EU
  • Juncker seen as traditional Brussels "insider" by UK - some other EU leaders also against him
  • Germany's Chancellor Merkel backs Juncker - but stresses that leaders must agree on EU priorities first
  • In anti-Juncker camp, UK PM David Cameron appears to have Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary as allies - and possibly Italy
  • Support from Italy could be key for UK to block Juncker, as big countries have more voting weight
  • Juncker also needs European Parliament approval
  • Parliament says Juncker is first choice as his centre-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc won election and leaders must take account of result
  • But Juncker would need 376 votes in 751-seat parliament - not clear he could get that
  • Juncker would get support of EPP and Liberals, but big Socialist bloc looks split and many other MEPs would oppose him

How is EU boss chosen?

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