Juncker Falls Back on More-or-Less Europe Dichotomy

Jean-Claude Juncker Frans Timmermans
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal for closer EU integration is a throwback to the false dichotomy of more or less Europe.

In his annual State of the Union address, the Luxembourger called for merging the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council, completing the eurozone and shifting from unanimity to majority voting on important decisions.

His plans contradict the vision of a “multispeed Europe” that was endorsed by the governments of France, Germany, Italy and Spain earlier this year. Read more “Juncker Falls Back on More-or-Less Europe Dichotomy”

Leaders Recognize Migration to Europe Must Be Slowed

Various Western European leaders have warned that an uncontrollable influx of asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa threatens to undermine the bloc’s open borders.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Thursday that the European Union could go the way of the Roman Empire if it didn’t take action. “Big empires go down if the borders are not well-protected,” he said.

The Netherlands will take over the bloc’s rotating presidency in January.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has similarly warned that the continent’s free-travel area, known as Schengen, is at risk. “We have to safeguard the spirit behind Schengen,” he told the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Juncker predicted that the demise of Schengen would herald the collapse of the euro as well. “A single currency does not exist if Schengen fails,” he said. “It is one of the pillars of the construction of Europe.”

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, was even more direct: “We cannot accommodate any more refugees in Europe,” he told the German Süddeutsche Zeitung this week. Read more “Leaders Recognize Migration to Europe Must Be Slowed”

Juncker’s European Army Is Not Going to Happen

The European Union is unlikely to establish the army commission president Jean-Claude Juncker calls for — especially now tensions with Russia are so high.

Juncker, the former premier of Luxembourg who has presided over the bloc’s executive arm since November, lamented in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt on Sunday that Europe has lost respect in the world.

“In foreign policy too, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously,” he said.

Put together, the countries in the European Union are the world’s largest economy. Yet divergent interests and the existence of NATO as a joint defense force have often undermined the bloc’s influence on the world stage.

A single European army, Juncker said, “would send a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending European values.”

Which is exactly why establishing such an army now — if at all — would be problematic. Read more “Juncker’s European Army Is Not Going to Happen”

Juncker Could Be Britain’s Ally in Europe: Lawmaker

The man Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, fought tooth and nail to prevent becoming European Commission president might yet turn out to be an ally of his government’s, argues one of the country’s Conservative Party lawmakers.

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper on Friday, Mark Field, who represents the Cities of London and Westminster in Parliament, points out that Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg premier who was seen by many in the United Kingdom as an old-school European federalist, has committed himself to a program that “contains just the kind of language and proposals” Cameron seeks. Read more “Juncker Could Be Britain’s Ally in Europe: Lawmaker”

Nordic Premiers Could Become European Council President

European leaders on Friday pushed through Jean-Claude Juncker’s nomination to head the next European Commission while the prime ministers of Denmark and Finland looked likely candidates to chair their own council.

Juncker’s nomination, which is almost certain to be approved by the European Parliament, came over the strong objections of Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, who fear the former premier of Luxembourg will advocate deeper political integration in the European Union as the head of its executive arm at the expense of expanding the single market, liberating trade with nations outside Europe and giving member states the flexibility to opt out of specific policies.

Juncker, who previously also chaired the council of eurozone finance ministers, had claimed the commission presidency after his European People’s Party won a plurality of the seats in the European Parliament in last month’s elections.

His appointment confirms the views of British Euroskeptics who believe the European Union is beyond reform and the island nation would be better off outside the bloc. Read more “Nordic Premiers Could Become European Council President”

None of the Above: Europe’s Leaders Should Reject the Spitzenkandidaten

When Europe’s leaders meet on Tuesday to discuss who should replace José Manuel Barroso as European Commission president, they would do well to look outside the group of candidates put forth by the major parties in the European Parliament. Not only are there more qualified alternatives; nominating someone else would confirm the European Council’s primacy among the institutions of the European Union.

The four biggest blocs in the European Parliament — the conservatives, Social Democrats, liberals and Greens — each nominated a Spitzenkandidat for the European Commission presidency. Only the conservative and social democrat candidates, Luxembourg’s former prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the German president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, stand a chance of getting the job. The liberals lost so many seats that it is hard to imagine government leaders will pick Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian premier, instead.

The European Council nominates a candidate; the parliament is then supposed to confirm its choice with a vote. That has led the major parties in the parliament — always keen on expanding its power — to demand a final say. Which is exactly why leaders should defy them and nominate a candidate of their own. Read more “None of the Above: Europe’s Leaders Should Reject the Spitzenkandidaten”