Enda Kenny dismisses speculation on EC presidency

Monday 23 June 2014 11.34
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Jean-Claude Juncker is the candidate nominated for the presidency by the centre-right European People's Party
Jean-Claude Juncker is the candidate nominated for the presidency by the centre-right European People's Party
David Cameron wants a delay in the process in an effort to find a consensus candidate
David Cameron wants a delay in the process in an effort to find a consensus candidate

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has dismissed speculation that he may be considered for the position of President of the European Commission, succeeding José Manuel Barroso.

In an interview with Gay Byrne on 'The Meaning of Life' to be broadcast on RTÉ One Television tonight, Mr Kenny said he could not envisage a scenario where the position would not fall - as expected - to the former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean Claude Juncker.

Mr Juncker has been nominated for the position by the European People's Party to which Fine Gael is alligned.

It comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron risks inflaming the row with fellow EU leaders over his desire to block Mr Juncker from taking the presidency by forcing an unprecedented vote on the issue this week.

Mr Cameron will spell out his concerns in a meeting with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy tomorrow, ahead of a meeting with counterparts from across the 28-member bloc on Friday.

He wants a delay in the process in an effort to find a consensus candidate, but if leaders are not even willing to consider alternatives to Mr Juncker, Mr Cameron will call a vote and require his counterparts from across the EU to set out their positions clearly.

The move would mark a distinct break from the way that the commission president is usually chosen, with the nomination agreed between the leaders.

The decision to oppose Mr Juncker's nomination looks set for failure, after nine centre-left leaders, including French president Francois Hollande and Italy's Matteo Renzi declared their support for Mr Juncker.

Mr Juncker, viewed as an arch-federalist and potential road block to reform by Mr Cameron, was put forward by EPP, the largest party in the European Parliament after last month's elections, under the "Spitzenkandidaten" process.

But Mr Cameron has made clear that he believes EU treaties give the power to nominate candidates for top jobs to national heads of government, meeting in the European Council, and not to the European Parliament.

Downing Street sources said in the past there had always been an effort to find a consensual candidate, as in 2004 when the UK did not force through Lord Patten as commission president because France were vehemently opposed, even though he had sufficient support from other countries for the required qualified majority vote.

Explaining why Mr Cameron was prepared to take the step of forcing a vote, a source said his EU counterparts should be required to explain why they were "handing power to the (European) parliament through a back-room deal".

Mr Cameron has vowed to "fight this right to the very end" but his stance was criticised by Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, one of the centre-left leaders who agreed to back Mr Juncker at the Paris summit.

He is reported to have told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper that Mr Cameron could be defeated at the European Council summit if he forces the issue to a vote and added: "We cannot allow a single person to dictate everything to us."

The need for Mr Cameron to be able to negotiate a new arrangement with Brussels was underlined by an opinion poll that showed almost half of Britons would vote to leave the EU under the current membership terms.

Mr Cameron has vowed to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels before an in/out vote on membership of the EU by the end of 2017.