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France and Britain are both strongly opposed to Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next president of the European Commission, according to media reports Sunday, with the UK even threatening to quit the EU if he gets the job.
Juncker, Luxembourg’s former prime minister, is a favourite to take charge of the EU’s executive arm after being selected as a candidate for the post by the European People’s Party – which came out on top in the EU Parliament elections this month.
But while he has the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Juncker faces strong opposition from leaders of other major European economies, including French President François Hollande, German newspaper Bild said Sunday.
Without citing its sources, the newspaper said Hollande told Merkel this week that the EU needed to send a signal to French voters, after the far-right eurosceptic National Front topped EU-wide polls in France with nearly 25 percent on May 25.
“He put pressure for a large-scale investment programme and put (the name of) his former finance minister Pierre Moscovici on the table,” said the newspaper.
The UK is also known to be against Juncker’s appointment and another German publication, weekly magazine Der Spiegel, said Sunday that Prime Minister David Cameron warned on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday that if Juncker became Commission president, Cameron would no longer be able to ensure Britain’s continued EU membership.
‘A face from the ‘80s’
The magazine said participants understood Cameron’s comments to mean that a majority vote for Juncker could destabilise his government to the extent that an “in-out” referendum would have to be brought forward.
That in turn, they understood, would most likely lead to the British people voting to quit the EU, it said.
Spiegel said Cameron, who regards Juncker as too federalist and likely to damage his hopes of reforming Britain’s EU ties, dismissed the candidate during a recess with the words: “A face from the ‘80s can’t solve the problems of the next five years.”
Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership as well as to hold a referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU, provided his Conservatives win a 2015 national election.
A spokesman at the prime minister’s office declined to comment on the Spiegel article.
Juncker served as Luxembourg premier for 19 years, making him Europe’s longest-serving leader until he was defeated in a general election last year.
He is a true EU insider, having led the eurozone group of finance ministers through the worst of the bloc’s crisis and he is a staunch supporter of a federal European state.
EU leaders have traditionally named the Commission head on their own, but under new rules they now have to “take into account” the results of European parliamentary elections, though exactly what that means remains unclear.
(YesUrdu with AFP, REUTERS)