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EU Parliament-Council power struggle over Juncker 'not bad'

EU Parliament-Council power struggle over Juncker 'not bad'
By Euronews
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Andrea Büring, euronews: “Will it be Juncker or Schulz? Or will a surprise candidate prevail? Following the European election, the candidate of the party which performed the strongest was supposed to become the next head of the European Commission. That’s what the voters were told. The strongest party was confirmed to be the conservative EPP. Its candidate is the former head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker. He was also the candidate of choice for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, the game of ‘post Poker’ has only just begun. Now, the heads of state and government have started to negotiate the staffing issue.

“Nikolaus Blome, with news-magazine “Der Spiegel”, the European Parliament is also endorsing Juncker, so what or who is standing in his way?”

Nikolaus Blome, chief editor, Der Spiegel: “A European institutional structure is standing in his way. There’s the European Parliament and, on the other hand, there are the 28 heads of state and government, who are also legitimately elected, and they have the right to join in the conversation. Both sides, both institutions have to agree. And apparently the heads of state and government want additional time, for some unknown reason.”

euronews: “During campaigning, the conservatives focused on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Juncker didn’t really make an appearance. In contrast, the Socialist’s candidate Martin Schulz featured prominently in their election posters. Why? What does Merkel have against Juncker?”

Blome: “I think, they’ve known each other for a very long time. Juncker has also done duty in Europe for 30 years now, for much of that time as Luxembourg’s prime minister. No other head of state or government has been in office longer than Angela Merkel. They know each other really well and have already fought each other several times. Since the beginning, she hasn’t been convinced about nominating a top-candidate, because exactly what she suspected would happen in the end has happened: she thought an election focused on two top-candidates would put pressure on the heads of state and government and would limit their choice. And that’s something Angela Merkel doesn’t like at all.”

euronews: “Is Merkel calling the shots in Europe once again?”

Blome: “We’ll have to see. I think that, more than ever, she has to call the shots in Europe because other heads of state or government such as French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron have lost a lot of ground at home in these European elections. Other parties, especially eurosceptic ones, have taken over, such as the National Front in France or UKIP in Britain, which weakens the two men. The tables have turned, and that will make it even harder to find a compromise.”

euronews: “If they chose a third candidate, wouldn’t that be betraying voters — more proof that decisions in Brussels are arranged in back rooms?”

Blome: “It’s like a poker game — a power struggle between two democratically legitimate institutions. Basically, that’s not a bad thing. You can also see it in Germany between the Bundestag parliament and the Bundesrat federal council. But in this case it will get very complicated if the will of the voters is ignored. Everybody has to think it through carefully. And you can already bet a lot of money that if the heads of state and government chose a third candidate and sent him/her to parliament, where he/she has to get elected by a majority, whoever that candidate is would be rejected by the European Parliament.”

euronews: “What’s your prediction? Who will become the next Commission President?”

Blome: “I think it will be Jean-Claude Juncker at the end of the day. They’ll have to find a compromise to balance other interests in the circle of 28 heads of state and government, in exchange for allocations of the other posts, such as the deputy head of the European Commission, who is also in charge of foreign policy, or the president of the European Council. At the moment it’s the Belgian Herman van Rompuy, who will have to be replaced. In the end they’ll have to get a compromise out of it all. But when it comes to the top job and Juncker, I don’t think that there’s any possible negotiating margin with the European Parliament.”

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