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
    -9

    Comment number 76.

    2 MINUTES AGO
    62.florere says..........

    I strongly suspect that IF, there was a Brexit, the only angry Brits returning to the UK are UK MEPs and those made redundant from the EU bureaucracy in Brussels.

    "You strongly suspect" That's because you know nothing, I know a lot of people who are very worried about it. Ukip want to take away our EU citizenship.

    73. No health care, frozen pensions.....

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 75.

    Much of our knowledge of the EU has been dependent on the limited reporting of the press. The public is ignorant about most of what has been done and now we are being lead by the press mostly, airing opinion instead of fact, misleading the public as to what is really happening.
    Has there been a survey of the EU reps to find out how the various leaders are seen or is our new full of speculation?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 74.

    More proof that the UK needs to leave this sinking federal ship NOW.

    Leaving will not cost jobs; will not reduce trade; will not reduce what little global influence we have.

    Leaving will give us control of our borders; will return our sovereignty; will free us to negotiate global trade.

    And the 'bail-out' money (net contribution) saved would go a long way to improving health, education, etc..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 73.

    62. florere
    "if we come out there are going to be a lot of very angry and broke people flooding back into Britain"

    ==
    Generally changes to law are not retrospective, otherwise that would undermine the principle that the law can be relied upon as it is.

    So withdrawal would NOT allow the UK to throw out all the Poles, Roma, etc. who have already moved here, whatever Ukip voters naively imagine.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 72.

    @67. shanalang

    Are intentionally using irony?

    You call for sophisticated debate by
    !. Throwing out an insult
    2. Displaying an inability to distinguish between the EU and Europe.
    FYI it is not possible to be racist against a political institution, only against people.

    Hate the EU, love Europe

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 71.

    @43 quietoaktree
    That document conflates the EU with the single market, which I find disingenuous, as I am all in favour of the UK trading with our European neighbours free of tariffs, etc, as we voted for decades ago.

    IMHO, I believe that what we voted for was a good thing and I'd happily vote for it again today. However, what we have ended up with is very different from what we voted for.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 70.

    61.
    'Britain's objections look set to be ignored....'
    ............... The rest of the EU can't wait to lay their greedy, self-entitled paws on The City and our other establishments yet ignore the British people even more than Westminster does. Free trade, nothing more is what the people agreed to in the last referendum, nothing more. Out now!

    Closer union was what it said in the "Yes" pamphlet.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 69.

    53.Gusgog
    DC,
    For you,Friday in Ypres might be like a re-run of the Alamo so if courage wavers just look out of the window towards the Menin Gate & be reminded,some things are worth fighting to the end for
    **
    Juncker&EU&Cameron
    Listen well Gusgog.. I knew many of the survivors from WW1 & they would have been saddened by your flippant use & disrespect for their dead chums
    I say: Sickening!

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 68.

    62.florere says: "..There are almost as many British living in Europe as there are Europeans living in Britain, if we come out there are going to be a lot of very angry and broke people flooding back into Britain".

    I strongly suspect that IF, there was a Brexit, the only angry Brits returning to the UK are UK MEPs and those made redundant from the EU bureaucracy in Brussels.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 67.

    Isn't it time that the UKippers adopted political acumen when commenting on the EU? After all having a racist outlook for one thing isn't healthy, and another it really doesn't contribute to mature sophisticated debate

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    Don't you get it.

    Never in the entire history of humanity on this planet are we having to confront the issues that now confront us.

    Namely:

    a) A planet that cannot sustain 50% of our current numbers nor replenish 50% of the resources we are currently devouring.

    b) A planet that is being cooked, mainly as a result of our behaviour over the last 200yrs.

    Get used to ruling out GROWTH.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 65.

    @62. florere

    Thank you for vindicating my post @60
    Why would anyone be forced to leave Europe if we left the EU?

    Oh I forgot, there are no Brits living in the USA, NZ, Asia; oh wait a minute....

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 64.

    60.bangers64
    @56
    Funny how those in favour of the EU think that they alone are the holders of the true facts Even when making statements that cannot proved e.g. that UK would not have this or would be that if we had not joined EU
    **
    No-Our EU is as it is for being in..the alternative you seek is&was& would be unknown.By you token it is the anti-EU proponents that have their case to prove

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 63.

    #60 Bangers64

    "Even when making statements that cannot ever be proved for example that the UK would not have this or would be that way if we had not joined the EU."


    Non-EFTA membership, membership in the EFTA, EEC and EU.

    --Has made no difference to the UK.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/balance-of-trade

    (interactive from 1955)

    The only answer is it could have been worse

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 62.

    Cameron is making a fool of himself, He believes in Europe so why doesn't he stand on his soapbox and say so. There are almost as many British living in Europe as there are Europeans living in Britain, if we come out there are going to be a lot of very angry and broke people flooding back into Britain.

  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 61.

    'Britain's objections look set to be ignored....'

    As always, and they will continue to be so. The rest of the EU can't wait to lay their greedy, self-entitled paws on The City and our other establishments yet ignore the British people even more than Westminster does. Free trade, nothing more is what the people agreed to in the last referendum, nothing more. Out now!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 60.

    @56. quietoaktree

    Funny how those in favour of the EU think that they alone are the holders of the true facts - rather like religious zealots in that way.
    Even when making statements that cannot ever be proved for example that the UK would not have this or would be that way if we had not joined the EU.

    @58

    Sidelining NATO? Fantasy, pure fantacy

  • rate this
    +40

    Comment number 59.

    Who cares let us (UK) vote on the EU now !

    I voted for a common market and that was it I have been,along with the rest of the UK, denied my say to long. I can make my own decision just as well as MP's. Stick to putting the Pro's and Con's.

    The EU could vote Donald Duck as President I don't care.We(UK) want our vote NOW before the next election or do it at the same time as the Gen Election.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 58.

    The EU has survived the EZ crisis and moves forward with more resolve, probably towards economic supremacy and more, sidelining NATO.

    Putin reinforces his position to its east, annexing Crimea.

    I'm left wondering what the US's strategy is. Does it intend a symmetrical move, "taking" the UK, for instance? Is the current wave of media anti-EU hysteria its prelude? If so who are its placemen?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 57.

    QOT my apologies, I of course meant exaggerations not extraditions. I blame spell check and haste but it does change the context somewhat!

 

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