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June 9, 2014 10:03 pm
David Cameron on Monday urged fellow European leaders to “stand up and be counted”, as he raised the stakes in his bid to block the “stitch-up” appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to Brussels’ top job.
Mr Cameron warned that Mr Juncker’s appointment as European Commission president would be an obstacle to reform and a dangerous surrender of power by elected heads of government to the European parliament.
The prime minister gave his uncompromising message at a mini-summit near Stockholm of reformist leaders, attended by Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and his Swedish and Dutch counterparts.
His hand was strengthened when Ed Miliband, Labour leader, backed Mr Cameron’s attempt to stop the appointment of Mr Juncker, a federalist former Luxembourg prime minister.
A Labour official said: “The message from the European elections was clear – that we need reform in Europe.
“Mr Juncker’s record shows he would make these reforms more difficult.” The Luxembourger is seen in London as an old-style integrationist and not the fresh face needed by the EU.
The summit was convened by Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden’s prime minister, with leading EU advocates of free trade and competition to try to push Europe in a more liberal direction.
But discussions over dinner at his summer retreat quickly turned to the best candidate to deliver those reforms when the European Commission begins its new five-year mandate later this year.
Mr Reinfeldt boosted Mr Cameron’s position when he told the FT he opposed giving the post to Mr Juncker simply because he was the “lead candidate” of the biggest party bloc in the new European parliament.
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Mr Cameron also hopes to win the support of Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, but Ms Merkel is in a difficult position.
She has endorsed Mr Juncker and is under political pressure at home to make sure he emerges as the next European Commission president, although she is also anxious to accommodate Mr Cameron’s concerns.
At the dinner, Mr Cameron warned against accepting a power shift through the back door by letting the European parliament – not elected leaders – determine the next commission president.
He warned this could set a dangerous precedent and was out of line with the Lisbon treaty, which says EU leaders should nominate a candidate “taking into account” the results of the European elections.
Mr Juncker was the lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s party, which includes Ms Merkel’s CDU. MEPs have to approve the final choice.
Mr Cameron said the European Council should work together to find a consensus candidate. One Downing St official said Mr Juncker’s claim to have a democratic mandate was “a stitch-up dressed up as an election”.
Mr Cameron earlier told the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, a showcase for British companies: “What matters is that we have people running these organisations who understand the need for change and reform in Europe. I think the programme is as important as the people.
“What is the work programme for the commission and European Council in the next four years? Can we focus on completing the single market? Can we have a digital single market? Can we make sure we have an energy single market can we make Europe more energy-resilient, particularly as we see the risks now of overreliance of Russia. Let’s look at the things we need to do, the flexibilities we need to create, the competitiveness we should be pushing . . . as well as understanding Europe needs to change. ”
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