Is Merkel damaged by the EU's Juncker row?

File photo: Angela Merkel, 24 June 2014 Angela Merkel's judgement has been questioned by the German press

In the battle over who should become the next president of the European Commission, David Cameron is depicted as the loser - "isolated", "incompetent", a serial mis-reader of Brussels politics.

Yet David Cameron is not alone in finding himself in a corner, defending a position he cannot retreat from.

Several leaders who doubted whether Jean-Claude Juncker was the best candidate for the job are now uncomfortably lining up behind him.

But Angela Merkel's position is almost as uncomfortable as that of David Cameron. Frau Europe's authority has been damaged.

It was not just that she was forced to back down when she suggested other names apart from that of Mr Juncker should be considered for the top job.

She flinched as some outraged German columnists pointed out that during the campaign she had told voters the election would determine the next Commission president.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit held at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 5 June 2014 Downing Street feels that Ms Merkel has expressed different views in public and in private

Although I believe it is reparable, there is new tension to the German-British relationship.

Downing Street firmly believes it had received assurances from Chancellor Merkel that the Juncker issue would be fixed. Her advisers say that her position was made more difficult by the prime minister's veiled threats about Britain leaving Europe.

Unusually, even at home, Angela Merkel's judgement has been questioned.

One German commentator said that she "looked almost lost, tugged here and there by forces that she does not control".

Certainly she has lost out on what for her are important points of principle.

She has long believed that big countries such as Germany and Britain should not be steamrollered during the major arguments. Britain's objections look set to be ignored.

'Worst possible mistake'

Although much of the German political establishment has seen a strengthening of the European Parliament as one answer to the EU's democratic deficit, Chancellor Merkel is said to be uncomfortable at a shift in power towards the European Parliament which could weaken the ability of heads of government to define the agenda.

There is already a fall-out from the battle over the Commission presidency.

The centre-left in Europe, led by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Francois Hollande of France, have seized an opportunity to push their case for a change of course in Europe. Yes, they have agreed to back Mr Juncker but in exchange for a commitment to support their growth agenda.

The centre-left wants a more flexible interpretation of the EU's budget and deficit rules.

File photo: Jean-Claude Juncker of the European People's Party leaves the party's headquarters in Brussels, 26 May  2014 Mr Juncker has sought to reassure Germany that the Stability Pact will not be changed

Mr Renzi has turned on what he calls the "high priests" of austerity and has warned "there can be no stability possible if there is no growth in Europe".

These moves have clearly rattled the German government. The powerful German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that EU members should "stick to the rules we jointly drew up. Nothing more, nothing less".

He went on to say that "running up new debt would be the worst possible mistake we could make".

The head of the Bundesbank Jens Weidmann has weighed in arguing that an easing of the budget rules "could trigger massive shocks" in the eurozone.

Mr Juncker, to reassure the Germans, has said that "it will not be the case that the Stability Pact will be changed", but seems set to explore some of the flexibility in the wording.

But it only underlines how a president of the Commission essentially selected by the parliament will be drawn into political battles.

It may be one of those unintended consequences but the arguments over the EU's top jobs have opened up new divisions over the budget rules and, this time, Angela Merkel's authority is less certain.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    With only 43% participating in the EU election, Greece and France (no memory of what life there was like in the '40s?) espousing fascists, Hungary stepping to the right and those countries with no economic discipline castigating those who bail them out, we are sadly proving George Bernard Shaw right: "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    29.benbowlane ---- I have known for years the BBC cannot be trusted but like to point this out at every opportunity as I am hoping others start to take notice and start to do their own research as BBC seems to have given up on real reporting

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Juncker is not a controversial figure, nor an unknown politician outside the small Euro-circle. He is extremely well-known and, even more importantly, well-respected by many of us citizens of France, Germany, Belgium ... for one reason because, being perfectly at ease in French & German as well as English, he is often directly interviewed by our national press. This is an internal UK problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Kevin Hewitt Europe editor of BBC, we can see what you are trying to get....

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    27. Esfer
    "Is BBC image damaged by the same EU subjects all the time....?"

    Indeed. They always seem happy to give Farage a platform if they've set him up with an open goal too.

    They've let him off the hook over Iraq completely though haven't they? Remember how he said the UK should take Syrian refugees from the ISIS side?

    What does he say NOW?

    Come on BBC-UKIP, we'd VERY much like to KNOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I don't care who is in charge, because the EC needs to be shut down an completely inspected, they have never had their books signed off by their own auditors!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #7 where exactly is the evidence that the people of Europe (a) want more democracy at EU level and (b) do not think leaving it to their elected national leaders is not good enough

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    BBC moderated me yesterday , today the BBC itself prints the exact words and almost in the same sentence and publishes. so another to lose trust in the BBC.
    One must learn that when the British Braodcasting Corruption tell you its dark at midnight, its best to go outside and check. They long ago lost all sense of impartiality, honesty and free speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    24. SCL
    "This whole situation has surely proven that the "democratic deficit" is not filled by the Euro Parliament - if anything it makes it worse, as decisions are then taken at a supranational level where UK votes are easily defeated"

    Yes, it's a curse, this democracy lark, isn't it, when the side you oppose gets more votes than you? I assume you think its fine when Johnny Foreigner loses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Is BBC image damage by the same EU subjects all the time....?
    Don't you guys get bored of it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    BBC moderated me yesterday , today the BBC itself prints the exact words and almost in the same sentence and publishes. so another to lose trust in the BBC......

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    So much damage is caused by the Mail or Express. Reading the UKip comments here reveals just how ignorant and credulous they are. People need to filter what they read a lot or more and apply some circumspection

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    This whole situation has surely proven that the "democratic deficit" is not filled by the Euro Parliament - if anything it makes it worse, as decisions are then taken at a supranational level where UK votes are easily defeated. I really hoped that the "re-negotiation" would actually materialise and a positive case for staying in the EU could be made, but Juncker signals same old, same old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    14. Merod
    "Can we just not vote for the EU Commission President to solve all this hand wringing?

    Or is democracy too much of a novel idea for the EU establishment?"

    Who voted for Major or Brown as PM? Not even our MPs.

    At least the EU Commission president must be endorsed by the largest party in the EU Parliament.

    In Juncker's case he has the backing of BOTH the largest: centre L and R.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    When are these six figure salaried traitors ever damaged.

    At worst they deny every wrong doing and retire into obscurity on a pension that the rest of us can only dream about.

    Vote UKIP!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    So nice to see democracy in action once again in the high offices of the EU!

    Just joking, for those who do not do irony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @ 18 John " 95% support Merkal support for Mr. Junker and the same numbers think is the right men for the job "

    Right for who? Nut the UK that is for sure

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    "Is Merkel damaged by the EU's Juncker row?"

    I certainly hope so

    She deserves to be

    The vote in Saxony (in August?) should give a good indication of that

    AfD got over 10% there at the "EU" elections

    I believe that AfD could ultimately wipe out Merkel's CDU. Maybe not this time

    Dave is allied to the AfD and should go over there to support them

    And Nige

    And Dan Hannan

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Gavin i do not know wear you get you information.
    I just come back from a holiday in Italy and all my neighbor living or having a holiday are German and good friend is tradition to have a barbeque all together and lot argument are discuss including politic and expectantly the EU let me tell you 95% support Merkal support for Mr. Junker and the same numbers think is the right men for the job

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    One of the weird and yet defining characteristics of the soviet union was that leaders claimed to be democratically elected, and everywhere they went there were crowds of card carrying party members, cheering their praises relentlessly. Meanwhile, everybody else considered the whole process a big, ugly joke.
    Junker is straight out of the soviet play book. He is a party man, nobody else knows him.


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