Jean-Claude Juncker on  top of the EU Commission? No thanks!

(German original: Jean-Claude Juncker an der Spitze der EU-Kommission? Nein, danke!)

The clock is ticking, election posters multiply: In 6 days the European Election takes place. The christian-democratic European People’s Party has made a European veteran their top candidate. It is questionable though if the much needed change in the EU can be achieved with Juncker. 

Widely anticipated for months, the party congress in Dublin made it official in March: The EPP top candidate who will reach for the Commission Presidency is Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg. 382 votes put the 59 year old in front of Michael Barnier who received 245 votes .

More than 70 parties from 39 countries belong to the EPP and the vote shed light on the subliminal ideological differences in different member-states. Spain and Italy for example voted against the former head of state who is known to be a disciple of austerity, despite opposite claims by himself. When the financial crisis reached its peak he was strongly involved with unpopular budget cuts he continues to defend as a front-runner. Growth on the basis of ever higher debt were not acceptable .

A progressive agenda

Never the less it appears Juncker aims to pull ahead from the left of Martin Schulz, his rival from the social democrats. Economic efficiency, competitiveness and consolidation coupled with social justice is the goal he proclaims to follow. Once and for all he wants to put a stop to common believe, social politics would be restricted to social democrats only.

Should the EPP win the election and if European parties stick to their promise to let the winning top candidate be proposed as Commission President, Juncker has big plans: He wants more Europe without getting lost in nitty-gritty . In Dublin he denounces attempts of the EU to meddle with people’s backyards. 

Instead the Union should finally become a social project. Juncker announces to assess all laws and reforms in regard to their impact on employment and rewrite them accordingly. It sounds as if the EU-insider has a clear plan for the his potential first term.

Ambitious plans that sound well to friends of a more closely integrated Europe. There is reason to be careful though. As Prime minister public debt skyrocketed in Luxembourg, more than doubling between 2007 and 2012 . At the same time the former leader was defending his country as a tax haven in order to remain a competitive host for the financial market.

Juncker does not stand for more democracy

Even on the European level he has earned contempt for his course of action. According to himself he favours to decide upon laws first and continue to push the envelop as long as nobody notices until there is no turning back anymore .

This does not inspire confidence. Just as his opinion, lies would be necessary in difficult moments, it does not promise the transparency citizens all over Europe are calling for. 

What Europe needs isn’t more integration at any cost but foremost the reduction of the democratic deficit. A politician who has no issue with back-room deals will make it even more difficult. 

Years of experience and his personal history shape Juncker’s vision  of Europe: Those who criticise the EU are encouraged by him to visit soldiers graveyards. The demons of the past were not yet defeated

Therefore he sees a far-reaching integration as a basic necessity and beyond discussion. Is that really necessary? If it is, how should it continue? The success of extreme parties from the right rather indicate we are standing at crossroads. Not only the expansion to the East, but as well the financial crisis and the conflict surrounding Ukraine have altered the European architecture fundamentally.

At the top of the Commission which he describes as the engine of the EU, Juncker would be an unfortunate uninspiring choice. Among his tweets you read he would stand for a Europe that does not dream. These are not the words of a visionary leader. Concerning the crisis in Ukraine he takes a vigorous stance: 

At a closer look some of his positions seem contradictory. On the one hand he argues for the protection national sovereignty against more integration in the EU. On the other hand he bids for more centralisation of economic and financial politics, two central responsibilities of national governments. His call for more Europe regarding important topics and less Europe regarding the less important he sounds almost exactly like Martin Schulz, his rival.

An involuntary candidacy?

His command of four languages has helped his reputation as a builder of bridges. However this does not necessary qualify him for the key position of Commission President. Juncker himself seems to be aware of it. According to himself he did not intend to become a candidate before friends and colleagues from Brussels talked him into it. Passion and commitment sound different, in particular regarding a man who has been involved with the development of the EU so intensely and who is generally known as “Mr.Euro ”. 

Author: Valerie Lunsmann
Photo credit: junckerepp via photopin cc