Harpsund summit: Angela Merkel backs Jean-Claude Juncker for European Commission presidency
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has restated her support for Jean-Claude Juncker to take over as president of the European Commission, at a mini-summit in Sweden.
Angela Merkel said that while she was “happy” to say she wanted Jean-Claude Juncker for the top job, it was not “the main topic” of the two-day talks.
British PM David Cameron, who wants a less federalist candidate, said reform of EC policies had been the priority.
The Swedish and Dutch prime ministers also took part in the talks.
The European Council – representing the EU’s 28 heads of state – is due to announce its Commission candidate later this month.
The leaders have traditionally named the Commission head on their own. However, new rules mean they now have to “take into account” the results of the European Parliament elections, which were won in May by Jean-Claude Juncker’s centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) bloc.
Britain is leading a campaign to block his candidacy. Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte are thought to back David Cameron’s position but did not address the issue with reporters on Tuesday.
“We have agreed that the future policy priorities of the EU must be decided before we can decide on appointments of different top jobs,” Fredrik Reinfeldt said.
Correspondents say the scene has been set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament, with the UK worried about the prospect of a “stitch-up”.
The four centre-right politicians met in Harpsund, near Stockholm, to try to reach a consensus on European reform.
Job creation, economic growth and structural reforms to boost EU competitiveness were also discussed at the meeting, which finished on Tuesday morning.
Angela Merkel said the focus had been on “policy, which is what is really important for Europe and its citizens”.
“I have said it in Germany and so I will again here: Jean-Claude Juncker is my candidate for the position of Commission president and I want to have him as Commission president,” Angela Merkel told journalists at the end of the meeting.
“But that hasn’t been the main point. We didn’t talk about hypothetical situations and we don’t have to answer questions about them.”
David Cameron, who strongly opposes Jean-Claude Juncker’s belief in a closer political union between EU member states, said the right leaders were needed to reform Europe.
“If the European Union doesn’t go in that direction, that would be unhelpful,” he said.
David Cameron has promised British voters a referendum on EU citizenship in 2017, if he gets re-elected next year.
“Obviously the approach that the European Union takes between now and then will be very important,” he added.
The Commission president is the most powerful job in Brussels, shaping EU policy in key areas such as economic reform, immigration and ties with other global powers.
The EPP – the largest centre-right grouping in the parliament – won the most seats in May’s polls, and Jean-Claude Juncker has argued that gives him the mandate.
The decision will be made by the European Council by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.
The result is due to be announced at an EU summit on June 26-27, although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.
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