Row over EC president tops agenda at high-level EU meeting

Tuesday 10 June 2014 13.22
Jean-Claude Juncker has the backing of the European Parliament
Jean-Claude Juncker has the backing of the European Parliament

A significant row over who will become the next President of the European Commission is expected to top the agenda of a high-level meeting later today involving the leaders of Sweden, Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is publicly supporting former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who has the backing of the European Parliament.

However, British Prime Minister David Cameron is vehemently opposed to Mr Juncker.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte are also unhappy with the selection process.

Voters were led to believe that whichever political grouping in the European Parliament secured the most seats in last month's elections, this would result in its candidate being placed in poll position to replace José Manuel Barroso.

However, even though the centre-right European People's Party was the clear electoral victor, its candidate Mr Juncker has been dragged into a bitter dispute rather than been crowned as President of the European Commission.

That is because Mr Cameron is very opposed to Mr Juncker as he believes he is a federalist EU-insider who does not reflect the desire of voters for change at the heart of the EU.

It is also clear the British Prime Minister does not believe Mr Juncker will be helpful when it comes to Britain repatriating powers from Brussels to London in advance of a referendum on EU membership.

However, Ms Merkel has publicly backed Mr Juncker and is under strong pressure from her party and coalition partners not to back down under British opposition.

Today's meeting is being held in Sweden, and the country's Prime Minister expressed his opposition over the weekend to the new selection process for Commission President - arguing allowing MEPs to decide on the matter rules out other candidates.

The Dutch Prime Minster is said to be of a similar view.

Mr Juncker has maintained he is increasingly confident of landing the commission job. If the rancour continues over his appointment, however, he may be forced to pull out.