June 2, 2014
With Angela Merkel’s recent shift, all doubts seems to have abolished that Jean-Claude Juncker, Spitzenkandidat of the winning EPP, will become the next president of the European Commission.
On Tuesday last week, Juncker has already had a simple majority in the European Council, according to Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. Other reports claim that the British Prime Minister David Cameron has been the only participant to actually express his rejection of Juncker. Angela Merkel was among those who refused to settle on any name in this phase of the negotiations.
The non-declaration by the Council provoced an outcry in social and tradional media throughtout Europe: Furious citizen who felt cheated of their vote and the commentators expressing themselves in a rarely distinct manner. More and less likely advocates joined in institing to respect the outcome of the election and nominate the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg for the post. Even the defeated Socialists, both in the Parliament and in the Council (!), dissipated any doubt on what the result means. On Friday afternoon, eventually, the German Chancellor gave in to this pressure.
With Juncker becoming what he is entitled to, one thing is certain: From now on the president of the Commission has to be elected. This change of track is irreversable: not only in legal terms, since the ambiguos Articel 17 of the Lisbon Treaty now got a strong precedent – but also in terms public demand. European citizens won’t be satisfied without Spitzenkandidaten in future elections.
Juncker himself has been talking about this before the election in an insightful interview with the Austrian daily “Der Standard”. The 2014 European election would only be a sort of test drive with Martin Schulz and him as “guniea pigs”. In the future, pan-European parties will settle on Spitzenkandidate way more in advance to the election and promote them way stronger. After all, what is at stake is not a minor post in some unimportant assembly, what is at stake is the presidency of a political inistitution that co-determines the life of half a billion people.
Now the Commission President will some extra power and the same time more accountable towards the European public. From now on, the EU’s power game won’t be locked behind some closed doors in Brussels, but in the common public – between Helsinki and Lisbon, Dublin and Athens.
Of course, Juncker has not reached his destination yet. He has not only to win a majority in the Council but also in the Parliament. However, he’s been elected and given the first shot to find those majorities. It is unlikely, that on June 27th the Council will nominate or on July 15th the Parliament will elect a different candidate to lead to Commission in the upcoming five years.
The choice for Juncker is not just any other personell decision. It could mark the birth of a genuinely democratic Europe, a new chapter in the history of European integration, a game changer. We will probably remember these days for a long time.Bernhard Schinwald