Cameron loses EU landslide

2014-06-27 19:32
Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's former prime minister, talks to the media before he boards a campaign bus in Brussels. (Yves Logghe, AP, File)

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's former prime minister, talks to the media before he boards a campaign bus in Brussels. (Yves Logghe, AP, File)

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Brussels - European Union leaders have picked former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker to become the 28-nation bloc's new chief executive, two senior officials said on Friday.

The nomination came after weeks of haggling over who should be the new leader of the EU's powerful executive arm because Britain staunchly opposed Juncker.

But the summit of EU leaders in Brussels broke with a decades-old tradition of choosing the President of the European Commission by consensus and overruled because British Prime Minister David Cameron's opposition.

"Congratulations! An experienced European at the right place," EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said on Twitter.

The 59-year-old Juncker still needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament before starting his term later in the year, taking over from Jose Manuel Barroso.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy initially announced the decision, in a Twitter message.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier Friday he would vote against Juncker because he views the 59-year-old as the embodiment of a pro-integration, consensus-favouring, empire-building Brussels clique that won't return power to member nations.

"There are times when it's very important to stick to principles ... even if the odds are stacked against you, rather than go along with something that you believe is profoundly wrong," he said.

"And today is one of those days."

Some EU leaders sought to appease Britain because the move to appoint Juncker threatens to further alienate the increasingly eurosceptic nation that many fear could even choose to leave the bloc of 500 million people.

Smell the coffee

"I very much hope that after today we can get back on track where the United Kingdom is an important partner and an influential partner in the European Union," Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said before the vote on Juncker.

"I believe the UK needs Europe but I also think that Europe needs Great Britain to be part of us," she said.

Other leaders appeared more upset by Cameron's outspoken campaign against Juncker.

"They cannot alone block the 26 or 27 others countries that agree," Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said.

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb insisted Britain is an important partner pushing for reforms and a more open economy, but warned that a nation that ships half of its exports to EU nations shouldn't lightly flirt with leaving the bloc.

"I think in the United Kingdom some people obviously need to wake up and smell the coffee: the European Union is a very good thing for the United Kingdom," he said.

Juncker led Luxembourg - a tiny nation of some 500 000 people - for almost two decades. He also played a crucial role in shaping the euro currency, and led the group of finance ministers governing the 18-nation currency through the financial crisis that threatened the euro's very survival.

Juncker's approval by Parliament is not expected to be a problem as both his centre-right bloc and the main centre-left Socialists and Democrats have said they will support him. In return, the centre-left leaders seek to be granted other top EU jobs, including the position of foreign policy chief, currently held by Catherine Ashton.

Cameron's staunch opposition to Juncker is also fuelled by the way the latter was initially chosen - by Parliament and not by the national governments - and Britain's domestic politics.

Cameron is haunted both by increasingly eurosceptic lawmakers of his Conservative Party and the rising UK Independence Party, which advocates leaving the EU. He has vowed to renegotiate his country's relationship with the EU, seeking to diminish the power of bureaucrats in Brussels, before holding a referendum on Britain's EU membership in 2017, provided he wins re-election next year.

Read more on:    eu  |  david cameron

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