hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 2 June 2014

Juncker: Why Cameron must stand up to Merkel


London, United Kingdom. 2 June.  “A face from the 1980s cannot solve the problems of the next five years”.  David Cameron’s comment about Jean-Claude Juncker puts London on a collision course with Germany.  Indeed, by supporting Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next European Commission (the EU’s Chief Executive) President German Chancellor Merkel has clearly decided to face down British Prime Minister David Cameron.  However, so averse is Cameron to a Juncker presidency that apparently (and for the first time) the Prime Minister has actually told Merkel Britain could leave the EU if Juncker is appointed.  So, who is Jean-Claude Juncker and why is Cameron so exercised?

The many quotes attributed to M. Juncker tell a worrying story. His protectionist instincts were apparent in 2006 when Indian steel giant Mittal was seeking to acquire Arcelor,  Juncker said, “I am determined, as is the [Luxembourg] Government, to do everything to preserve everything that we have worked for and that we believe in…by using all necessary mean to fend of the hostile”.

Juncker’s views on democracy are also well-documented.  In 2005 on the eve of the French referendum on the disastrous Constitutional Treaty Juncker said, “If it’s a Yes we will say ‘on we go’.  If it’s a No we will say ‘we continue’”.

He is a committed EU federalist and says so. “There is a single legal personality for the EU, the primacy of European law, a new architecture for foreign and security policy, there is an enormous extension in the fields of the EU’s powers…”  And, on the relationship between EU power and the people Juncker is clear, “We [political leaders] all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it”.

On pushing forward the European project Juncker freely admits to conning the people. “We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no-one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step-by-step until there is no turning back”. Indeed, in 2011 in the midst of the Eurozone crisis Juncker warned of the ‘dangers’ of political transparency.  “Monetary policy is a serious issue.  We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup…I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious…I am for secret, dark debates”.  Indeed, he told Die Brusseler Republik, “When it becomes serious, you have to lie”. 

However, Juncker perhaps left his ‘best’ and most duplicitous for Britain.  “Britain is different”.  He said, “Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty.  But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?”

Juncker might head the strongest group in the European Parliament. However, the member-states (where real democracy in Europe still resides) are only duty bound to take the European Parliament’s candidates “into account”.  At heart this is a three-way power struggle between reformists and federalists and between federalists in the European Parliament and the member-states in the European Council.  It is also a struggle between Germany and Britain (and others) over German power and influence in the EU.

For Chancellor Merkel to back Jean-Claude Juncker for such an important position at this particular moment when so many millions of Europeans have protested against a distant EU looks for all-the-world like good-old-fashioned arrogance.  Indeed, it suggests a German view of EU integration built on the political principle that all other EU member-states should integrate around Germany with Brussels merely Berlin’s agent. 

There are three other candidates (as yet undeclared) who might offer the balanced leadership and compromise between reform and stability Brussels and the paying member-states that the EU desperately needs.  These are Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.

If Jean-Claude Juncker is appointed to President of the European Commission it would not only be a slap in the face for Britain.  It would send the strongest signal yet that democracy in the EU is just theatre and that whatever the people vote the EU elite will carry on with business as usual.  Eurogroup chairman and twice President of the European Council Juncker is the ultimate EU patrician and long-term elite insider and represents all that is wrong with today’s EU.  He combines the arch EU-federalism, small-minded protectionism and archetypal elitism that has done so much to create the hollowed-out democracy that is today’s Europe.  The already yawning democratic-deficit under a Juncker presidency would only deepen.

Jean-Claude Juncker believes the EU and its people must be driven towards his ‘finalité’; a European super-state.  His job as Commission President would be to push Europeans by hook or by crook towards his ‘vision’.  As such ‘President’ Juncker would seek to undermine the autonomy of the member-states by extending the ‘competence’ of the European Commission via a maximalist interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty and the progressive concentration of power in a few elite Brussels’ hands.

The only way to stop Juncker is for Prime Minister Cameron to come out of the euro-realist closet and take a stand.  He must tell Chancellor Merkel that should this man be appointed Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom will actively campaign for Britain’s departure from the EU.  If he fails to do so then Juncker will systematically block any EU reform Cameron seeks and a return to the subsidiarity that Cameron is championing would be strangled at birth.

The one thing that can perhaps be said in Jean-Claude Juncker’s favour is that he is open about both his beliefs and his methods. There are too many EU leaders who prefer to operate completely in the shadows.  However, as an unabashed euro-fanatic, Juncker would bethe wrong man, in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.  

Don't just take Juncker's words for it.  Speaking of Juncker in 2005 US President George W. Bush allegedly said, “I was going to say he [Juncker] is a piece of work, but that might not translate too well.  Is that alright if I call you a piece of work?” 

M. Juncker is indeed a face from the 1980s and far from solving the EU’s myriad problems as President of the European Commission he would inevtitably make them far, far worse.

Jobs for the boys?

Julian Lindley-French

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