EC President Juncker will 'seek compromise in a more divided EU'

What can we expect from Mr Juncker’s role as EC President?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

I think this is really not easy to predict. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not even clear that Juncker wanted to have that job in the first place. But many people expect him to represent Old Europe and more Europe, and not necessarily new ideas or new substance. And Juncker is not seen as a great reformer. He does not seem to have much of his own agenda, but he’s quite under pressure from those who supported him.

There’s all these different camps that supported him. On the one side there’s the Italian government and many socialists in the European Parliament. They voted for him somewhat on the condition that the Commission takes a more relaxed view on austerity – which means less fiscal discipline, and more support for public debt finance spending.

And on the other side Angela Merkel, her lukewarm support was more based on an expectation that he might push through structural reforms and take a rather different approach which is more about stressing competitiveness of the European Union.

So as a consequence I think he will need big diplomatic skills to really lead a commission which is also difficult. He’s not a head of a European government that can really set the agenda as he likes to. He will have to coordinate the world of 28 commissioners coming from 28 different countries, and representing different parts of the political spectrum.

So I expect his job will mostly be to seek compromise in a European Union that is more and more divided. And probably we will see more muddling through, and not a decisive step in any direction.

How can Mr Juncker appease the eurosceptics and embrace EU reform?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

I don’t think that Juncker is willing or able to really oppose the radical eurosceptics from the left or the right, because that’s not what the grand coalition of mainstream parties have elected him for.

But when it comes to more constructive EU reformers, I think he will want to give them something, or work with them at least.

And the big case, of course, is David Cameron who is an EU reformer and not a radical EU sceptic. I think here Juncker has to propose something, and there are perhaps three examples where he can work something that is not to be seen as a ‘special deal’ with the UK, but a general reform that is good for all member states in the European Union.

One of these points in the agenda should, or could, be a common market for services, the completion of the single market for services which would increase trade and create employment.

The second would be to complete free trade deals and arrangements, certainly with the United States.

And a third would be to get closer to subsidiarity and democracy - and here there are several proposals on how to strengthen the role of national parliaments. And this is something that could help Cameron and other eurospectics in many other countries to stay on board of the European Union.

So in a way there are reforms that can be done, and need to be done. We just have to hope that Juncker has the courage and the support to do just that.

(Photo credit: dpa)