Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor

Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

This is where you will find my view of the big arguments over Europe, its politics and its personalities

MH17 plane crash: EU moment of decision

Debris at crash site, 20 Jul 14
The airliner disaster in Ukraine has fuelled Western fury over Russian support for the rebels

For months the EU has displayed extreme reluctance over tightening sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. It has preferred to take small steps - travel bans and asset freezes against individuals - rather than to go after the "inner circle"' around President Vladimir Putin.

And Europe's leaders have repeatedly shied away from what they call Level Three sanctions - going after sectors in the Russian economy.

The reality is that, so far, the EU has struggled to find unity over how to respond to Russia. Sanctions require unanimity and they have had to settle for the lowest common denominator.

Germany and Italy - to take just two countries - have been wary of unsettling relations with Moscow. Italy with its fragile economy, which continues to hover close to recession, is very dependent on Russian energy.

Germany has 6,000 firms which do business in Russia. Some of its leading industrialists have been vocal in opposing sanctions.

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The real Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker at a news conference in the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 15 July

In the end Jean-Claude Juncker's anointment as Europe's most powerful official came with moments of theatre.

When Mr Juncker made an impassioned defence of the euro - "the single currency didn't split Europe... it defends Europe" - there were howls of derision from the UKIP benches. Nigel Farage weighed in saying that "nobody knew him" and that his name had "appeared on no ballot paper".

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Europe's Mr President

Sometime on Tuesday morning Jean-Claude Juncker will become the most powerful official in Europe.

Almost certainly he will get the backing of more than 376 MEPs and so win approval from the European Parliament. In November he will take over as President of the European Commission.

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Europe: Big jobs and low growth

Portugal - Banco Espirito Santo cashpoint, file pic
Bad debts at Portugal's biggest bank sparked fresh eurozone jitters last week

This is a week which will decide some of the ins and outs - who will be the stars in the EU firmament.

It is a game played with some intensity. The nation states are all proposing names to be their EU commissioner - who gets what will tell us much about power and influence in Brussels over the next five years. And who becomes the President of the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. But more of that tomorrow.

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European Parliament: The power battles begin again

Soldiers of the Eurocorps hold the European flag during a ceremony in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 30 June 2014
Despite the rise of the Eurosceptics, the European Parliament remains dominated by pro-EU parties

In Strasbourg on Tuesday the new and increasingly powerful European Parliament is meeting.

It will bristle with energy. There will be a parade of anti-establishment figures, many of whom want to shake the EU temple. Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Beppe Grillo and others will stalk the corridors and attract the cameras like moths to a flame.

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Olive branches fail to disguise deep Juncker division

David Cameron, 27 June
Down on support. Leaders showed some sympathy but would not back David Cameron

David Cameron tried to make a virtue out of his failure to block the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker for European Commission president.

Even before Mr Cameron had made his impassioned pitch to Europe's leaders, his aides were portraying this as a battle in a much longer campaign for EU reform.

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Cameron's allies against Juncker fall away

David Cameron & Jean-Claude Juncker
David Cameron opposes Mr Juncker's instincts for closer ties with Europe

A senior British diplomat has said David Cameron will "not row back", that he will fight on to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker becoming head of the European Commission.

But even as British officials were saying the prime minister would insist on a vote at the summit on Friday, some of David Cameron's potential allies were falling away. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "If an explicit vote is called for, we will support Juncker's candidacy... we will not block it."

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About Gavin

Gavin was special correspondent for BBC News before becoming Europe editor in 2009.

He covered the Obama campaign in 2008 and was embedded with US forces for the invasion of Iraq.

He has written two books including A Soul On Ice.

He has won an RTS, a BAFTA and a Broadcast award.

He has covered conflicts in Georgia, Lebanon and Zimbabwe and reported from New York after 9/11. He was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and was in Berlin the night the wall fell.

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