The pros and cons of Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission President

What strengths would Mr Juncker bring to the role of EC President?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

I think there are some strengths. The most important point perhaps is that he has support from all major party families within the European Parliament. That is something quite unusual to have before the formal election even takes place, the formal selection of the President of the Commission.

Also, he speaks not only English but also French and German. This should help him communicate his views. And also, politically speaking, he represents many different kinds of policies – you can say he’s a rather left-wing Conservative, he’s also a little bit Green, and liberal, so in a way he’s a middle-of-the-road politician.

And then he has lots of experience. He’s been part of the ‘Brussels bubble’ for many decades, part of the European elite, and he pretty much knows how things are working.

What are the drawbacks of electing Mr Juncker as EC President?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

Perhaps the last strength could also be a drawback, because he’s considered to be representative of Old Europe, of the European status quo, an old-style European federalist and not exactly a reformer – someone new, with new ideas and also someone who would also echo the demands for less Europe in some areas and more subsidiarity.

The other drawback is that he does not have most of the support from the heads of state and government in the European Council, that’s the big debate at the moment. And not only David Cameron does not endorse him – and really wants to avoid him – it is also the governments of The Netherlands, Sweden, perhaps Italy, so that’s a real problem for him.

And you could also not really say that he has a political mandate coming out of the European elections. If you look at the election results turnout was only 43 per cent. And of these 43 per cent, only 28 per cent voted for his party family.

And even within his party family there are some that never endorsed him. So in a way its not a huge support for Juncker coming out of these elections.

And finally, I think if Mr Juncker were elected this could further boost euroscepticism in many countries. And above all it will make it very difficult for David Cameron when it comes to the referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU, to win that referendum in the sense that people would rather stay than leave.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that electing Mr Juncker would be a ‘back door’ power grab. Is this a fair statement?

Professor Dr Michael Wohlgemuth:

In a way it is. If you look at the treaties the Parliament changed the game around. They say ‘we now propose the candidate for the European Commission presidency’, whereas the treaties it is clearly the heads of state make the proposals and the European Parliament can veto it.

And usually it has been the case that it is quite important to find a candidate who is supported by all major member states.

If this is ignored, certainly it’s not the way it should legally be, and perhaps it should not politically be.

(Photo credit:dpa)