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 336.

    Nothing has changed because of the anti EU voting that took place 2 months ago. The EU monkeys continue to ride their gravy train. We are not fully in this nightmare club and don't need to be there. It's a case of the king's new clothes. We are made to believe we have to be 'in'. But we don't. We have the strongest economy in the EU zone and that's because of who we are, nothing to do with the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    I agree absolutely with this, there is an old saying he who pays the piper calls the tune,

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Re 331: Utter cobblers! To trade with any country, we have to abide by their regulations and rules. We already do this to trade with say, Japan. This does not mean we need to be governed by Tokyo. We sell cars that comply with Australian regulations - we don't need to be governed by Canberra to do this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Big decisions made within the EU should primarily decided by the countries who are the largest contributors.

    As for the Germans - they are the biggest contributor.

    The "takers" shouldn't have any say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    #327. You are of course has only been a few weeks but the 'sceptic' parties did not win the election, they have somehow managed to give the impression that they did but actually they didn't. The EU leaders will fall in behind Merkel and Juncker will be the next EU President. Cameron is an irrelevance at home and abroad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Those who oppose UK membership of the EU are either ill-informed or willfully misrepresenting the issue.

    If the UK were part of the trading block but outside the EU, the same rules would apply to the UK but without the influence it hast now.

    Anti-EU, Anit-foreigner propaganda is the classic pied piper politics:
    Claiming that all your ills will be fixed with one solution - believe at your peril.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    The problem with this appointment is that it is antidemocratic. If the EU elections were to determine who would be the next EU commissioner this should have been clearly spelled out to every elector and the candidates named. In the UK it would be like having a general election without the electorate knowing who was the leader of the various parties. This looks very much like 'jobs for the boys.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    David Cameron's ploy of making a fuss which he knew would fail is working out well for him, but nobody else. He has no intention of leaving the EU but just wants to claw back some UKIP votes by looking as though he's actually doing something. Rather silly.

    I do hope nobody falls for this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    324. Last Socialist

    "The EU was our gift to our children"

    The "EU" is poisonous, illegitimate, megalomaniac, fascist filth

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    It's only been a matter of weeks since the EU elections & voters concerns have been totally rejected by the majority of MEP's & pro EU leaders with Merkel leading.

    Come on Cameron, stand up & hit the button for an in/out referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    The latest news shows that there is no alternative to the UK leaving the "EU"

    As soon as possible

    There must now be even more votes for "EU"-sceptic parties at coming elections

    We don't have to stop there

    There are other legal, non-violent forms of protest

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    324.Last Socialist

    "The EU was our gift to our children"

    What?. You must really hate kids!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    And meanwhile Ms Merkel quietly, sensibly gets on with the job.

    Here in England 'flappers' of the Con/Lib/UKIPBNP groan & wail but do not have a care for us but themselves.

    The EU was our gift to our children...not a pawn in a Eton/Dulwich power game.

    The 'referendum' on their antics is next year...called General.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    "This is democracy"

    No!. There is NO DEMOCRACY in the EU. I have not had a vote on a clearly presented choice of president - nobody in the EU has!. I did not vote for EPP I voted for a person!. The EU should be a trading club not a political entity anyway and I never had a vote on that transition either!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Most people voted for federalists - are you saying that in a democracy, the majority should not get their way just because the minority disagrees with them?

    If we had an even split I'd see a need for compromise, but skeptics got 10% of the vote while federalists got two thirds. That's a pretty clear mandate for their agenda of more integration.

    The UK is clearly doesn't belong in this club.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    This is democracy. If you did vote during the elections you voted for those who you think is best capable to represent you. Your statement implicates that you think that you have in Britain no democracy since you are not able to vote on each issue as presented in the parliament for example? (same situation 'you cannot vote on the next foreign affairs minister').

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Now you can look forward to even more poor countries jumping on the EU bandwagon as the EU needs "economic growth" and thinks its a cheap way of increasing market size. Money is pouring out of Britain into lame duck EU states. Britain is propping up the ailing Eurozone which will probably have to print its way out of trouble. The Euro crash is overdue!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    There has been a significant anti Europe vote across the Continent evidencing a real concern about the direction of the EU and these voices have been totally ignored by the appointment of a committed federalist. We are always told that if we are not in Europe we will not have a voice-well we are still in Europe and nobody listens. I have always been borderline EU but now I feel it is time to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    EU problems are discussed in detail here on HYS & elsewhere with vigour if not rigour.
    What I do not see any reality fixes...just rhetoric AFTER the event from the Con/Lib/UKIPBNP soothsayers...which it seems holds sway at No. 10.

    Socialists have plans for improving the EU...for us all...but headless chickens are not good listeners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Perhaps Merkel is starting to realise that these guys at the top really are just a bunch of out of control faceless fascists.

    If she can be ignored and sidelined by Juncker, then they must believe they have all the power, not the elected politicians.


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