The real issues in the Juncker row

Every European leader and senior official seems to agree Brussels veteran Jean-Claude Juncker is the “wrong man” to be president of the European Commission, says The Times. Yet, “to the discredit” of the 26 European leaders who voted for the arch-federalist (only the Hungarians joined the British prime minister, David Cameron, in voting against him), he got the job.

“The EU is in a crisis of political legitimacy.” It has spent too long navel-gazing and too little time thinking about issues voters care about: jobs, immigration and growth. Juncker, who is “against every necessary reform”, stands in the way of what the EU needs to secure a viable future and recover popular legitimacy.

Cameron’s stance may yield dividends, says The Daily Telegraph, such as a “consolation prize when the big economic posts are handed out”. And it does no harm for Europe to realise Britain is serious about leaving the EU if it cannot secure sufficient reforms.

The Tory party has already enjoyed a “poll bounce” at home. But Cameron could have achieved the same result far more skilfully, says Philip Collins in The Times.

He could have accepted Juncker with “feigned reluctance” in return for victory on a “vital question such as who takes the single market brief on the European Commission”.

Juncker is a “bibulous bureaucrat”, more likely to “fall asleep on the job” than sweep the EU towards federalism. By opposing him, Cameron has annoyed his “putative allies, as well as his natural rivals”. European negotiations are a “subtle game of give and take, not an ultimatum”. Britain needs allies if Cameron is to renegotiate our terms.

It’s politically convenient to blame all this on Cameron’s “tin-eared diplomacy”, but it is also “nonsense”, says Simon Nixon in The Wall Street Journal.

Cameron didn’t invent the “wretched” process at the heart of this mess. Juncker was appointed, because he was the lead candidate for the European People’s Party, which won the most seats in the European Parliament at the European elections.

Many in the UK are “deeply alarmed” by the appointment process, fearing it will “politicise the commission, undermining confidence in its ability to carry out its regulatory duties fairly and independently. But many Europeans actively want to politicise the commission and seized upon this process as an opportunity to do so.”

Take a step back, and nothing has changed, says Steve Richards in The Independent. The three main party leaders want Britain to remain in the EU, but seek reforms. That should not be impossible, given that others, “not least Germany, also want change”.

The real issue for Cameron – and the UK – is the Tory party. If Cameron wins the election next year, he will be in for “two years of hell” before his promised in-out referendum. Europe does not merit becoming “the overwhelming issue of our times”.

Merryn

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