Juncker for President of the European Commission?

According to Financial Times Juncker wins Merkel backing for EU Commission presidency. If confirmed does it mean that Juncker is a real favorite or not, and why? Read few comments.

Carolin RügerProfessur für Europaforschung und Internationale Beziehungen, Institut für Politikwissenschaft und Soziologie, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

“This time is different” is the official slogan for the elections of the European Parliament in 2014. And indeed, the election will be different because it is the first time that the European parties select their top candidate for the president of the Commission ahead of the citizens’ vote and ahead of the proposal by the heads of state or government for the top position.

While other parties were quite quick in deciding about their frontrunner (like the socialists with Martin Schulz), the choice of the conservative parties has been blurry for some time.

If it is confirmed that Angela Merkel supports Jean-Claude Juncker, there are two further hurdles for him: The first one being the official nomination as the conservatives’ top candidate which will take place in March in Dublin, the second one the European parliament elections in May when the centre-right would have to win a majority if Juncker wants to be president of the European Commission.

Juncker as the long-time prime minister of Luxemburg and head of the Eurogroup is definitely an old hand and veteran in the European business. Moreover, he is from a core EU and euro country.

He is known as very (for some: too) pro-European and federalist and was not chosen as president of the European Council in 2009. What might also play against him is that he was always very outspoken and is definitely not a candidate who will be on a short lead of the European Council. He often and sharply criticized Merkozy in the context of the euro crisis. So maybe the leaders of the center-right will prefer a more technocratic and low-profile candidate like the dark horse Dombrovskis.

Simon UsherwoodAssociate Dean, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of Surrey

Merkel’s support helps Juncker, but it’s still impossible to know if that really helps or not. The party groups still don’t seem to have decided how much they want to use this idea of Spitzenkandidaten in the elections: unless there is clear support from governments, then we will just have the same as before (i.e. a deal behind closed doors).

Aside from this, Juncker is not without problems as a candidate (his track record with the Eurogroup, etc.), so I’d be surprised if he got chosen.

Frank HägeLecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick

This is about who becomes the frontrunner for the EPP in the European Parliament elections. In an attempt to make the EP elections more attractive to voters, the appointment of the Commission President is now linked to the outcome of the elections. Becoming the frontrunner of the EPP, i.e. the umbrella European party for centre-right national parties, is just a first step. All will depend then on how the national parties belonging to the EPP perform in the elections. If Juncker gets indeed nominated by the EPP, and if the EPP comes out with the highest vote share from the elections, then he is quite likely to be the next Commission President. After receiving the backing of Merkel, his chances of being nominated are not bad, but it’s still not a foregone conclusion, and of course, nobody knows the outcome of the elections until they have actually taken place.

Doreen AllerkampAssistant Lecturer/Researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim

I don’t think we can speak in terms of real favorites for the post yet, as there are several high profile candidates in the running – not least the current President of the EP, and one of the most prominent European politicians of Germany, the Social Democrat Martin Schultz. While Schultz’ position could be weakened by the fact that he has already headed one of the EU’s core institutions and hence there are likely to be mutterings about too many prominent offices vested in a single individual were he to be (s)elected, Merkel has just begun a new grand coalition with the Social Democrats at home. Should the candidacy for the Commission Presidency become a bone of contention in that context, I very much doubt that Merkel would make fighting for Juncker a priority, his considerable merits notwithstanding. However, it is unclear as of yet how politicised the question is going to be, and it also depends on the future distribution of political weights in the EP.

Monika MühlböckSenior Scientist, Institute of Political Science, University of Salzburg

The FT-article is in my view too unspecific to allow any conclusions whether Juncker will indeed become the frontrunner for the European People’s party in the upcoming EP elections. Yet, Juncker has been a favorite from the beginning. It is difficult to say whether his own outspokenness (i.e. officially announcing his interest to become Commission president) will harm him in the end as his critics within the party have time enough to form alliances against him and put forward their own candidates. However, if played right, this strategy might not only be beneficial for Juncker, but especially for the EPP as a whole: while the other main European parties have already chosen their candidates, the internal “horse-race” could help the EPP to retain constant media attention until March, when they will officially nominate their candidate for the commission presidency.

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