Jean-Claude Juncker has laid out an uncompromising federalist vision of the future of the EU institutions ahead of the bloc’s elections next year.
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, the president of the European Commission said he would back the controversial electoral system that bought him to power in 2014. Known as the lead candidate or “Spitzenkandidate”, the process links the appointment of the Commission president to the outcome of the European Parliament elections.
Mr Juncker’s selection was the first time the rules had been used and was vehemently opposed by then UK prime minister David Cameron. Speaking to journalists today, the Commission president said Mr Cameron had since “apologised many times” to the Luxembourger for not backing his candidacy in 2014.
“I wasn’t able to make it to the UK [on my campaign tour] so Mr Cameron didn’t really know what I was thinking”, said Mr Juncker as he pushed for European elections next year to have longer campaigns.
“Those who are in favour of having a lead candidate should nominate a lead candidate by the end of this year”, said Mr Juncker.
Brussels’ plans for institutional reform are intended to shape a debate of EU leaders who will discuss how to choose the next Commission president next week. Many EU governments, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, oppose the Spitzenkandidate system, fearing it will give the European Parliament a free hand to appoint one of the most powerful jobs in the EU.
Mr Juncker said he was in “close debate” with the French president, and he had made clear to Paris the Commission will only support the lead candidate system.
The Commission president said he also “dreamt” of creating a bicameral government in Europe, made up of a single executive and European Parliament, with a directly elected president. However he admitted this was unlikely to happen under the current Commission mandate, which ends in 2019.
The Commission president also pushed for the eventual merging of the job of heading the Commission and the European Council, which represents the EU’s 28 member states — a proposal that is anathema to European governments.
But Mr Juncker said it was “total nonsense” he was aiming to build a “European super-state” — a charge levelled at him by Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary.
“Some in the UK political system think I am a stupid, stubborn federalist. I am not in favour of a European super-state. We are the not the US, we are the European Union”
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