What to expect from Juncker as EC head

Would do you expect from Jean-Claude Juncker in style and substance if he will be approved as a new EC boss? Read few comments.

Robert HarmsenProfesseur en Sciences politiques, Université du Luxembourg

Mr. Juncker was clearly the dominating figure in Luxembourgish politics for close to two decades. The political system here, however, is one that is essentially consensual or accommodationist in its orientation, and that is reflected in the Prime Minister’s role. It should further be recalled that his Christian Social party (CSV) formed coalition governments with both the Socialists and the Liberals at various junctures. There also remains a strong tradition here (albeit now somewhat frayed) of ‘tripartite bargaining’, involving the government, business and labour.

With that by way of background, I would expect him to be a relatively consensual president, not least drawing on his long experience of European affairs and European deal-making. Despite the virtual demonization in parts of the British press, I would also assume that he would be relatively sympathetic to the ‘reformist agenda’ (in the sense of economic liberalisation), if perhaps tempered with a limited degree of flexibility in line with the demands of a number of member states. The British problem aside, one of his initial challenges may well be that of positioning the Commission itself. While it might be argued that the selection procedure used for the president enhances the Commission’s ‘democratic legitimacy’, it is not without posing questions (beyond the ‘British problem’) of its independence (not least as regards certain of its more regulatory functions).

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

Juncker is one of the most seasoned and respected European leaders, as you know, and even though he comes from small Luxembourg, he is well-respected and his judgement carries weight. He is also very experienced in exercising European leadership, not just as a consequence of his long membership of the European Council, but also due to his Chairmanship of the Eurogroup. While he is a convinced European, he is not a fanatic pursuing grandiose visions of European Federalism – as you could be forgiven for thinking if listening to David Cameron (whose clumsy attempt to block Juncker, by the way, was one of the stupidest moves in European politics I have seen in a long, long time). Juncker is above all a pragmatist, and I expect he will be a very successful Commission President.

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

For all of the media coverage, Juncker would probably not represent a radical change in the Commission’s leadership. With his very extensive experience of national and European, Juncker is a very capable and adaptable politician, who would not be setting out to cause problems, but rather to find solutions. To some degree, it will depend upon what the rest of the Commission college looks like, but ultimately he would be a continuity of the habit of choosing underwhelming individuals to find this post.

Hylke DijkstraAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Maastricht University

The next five years, I expect the EU to be busy with solving a number of high-level problems. Some sort of deal needs to be agreed on the position of the United Kingdom. France and Italy need to engage in far-reaching economic reforms. The Eurozone will need to be further institutionalised. And a compromise needs to be reached with Russia regarding the neighbourhood. Jean-Claude Juncker will play an important role. I expect that he will be mainly busy during his term with putting out all sorts of fires. Big political events will drive his presidency and he will try to broker deals behind the scenes. In the area of new legislation, perhaps traditionally one of the most important functions of the Commission, I expect limited process. I doubt that there will be many new initiatives.
Within the European Commission, I expect Juncker to further centralise power. He is likely to rely on a limited number of Commissioners with key portfolios. The other Commissioners will play a marginal role. They will be ignored most of the time. He will claim that the election results give him such a mandate.

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