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".

Shortly afterwards Marine Le Pen was telling the former Luxembourg prime minister, "You weren't elected by the people… we'll fight you and your institutions."

But this was political knockabout. Mr Juncker knew he had the votes. The Liberals ensured he got 422 votes, 46 more than he needed.

Today - perhaps - we saw the real Jean-Claude Juncker, not the emollient vote-seeker doing the rounds of the parliamentary groupings last week.

Passionate

Firstly, he is passionate in defence of the single currency which he described as an "affair of the heart".

Start Quote

When things get serious you have to know how to lie”

End Quote Jean-Claude Juncker

While some argue that yoking such disparate countries with the same currency has sowed division and paved the way to mass unemployment, he would have none of it. Without the euro, he said, countries were pitted against each other.

He was prepared to lie in its defence. "When things get serious," he said, "you have to know how to lie."

As Commission president he will legislate to "deepen our economic and monetary union".

The BBC's Chris Morris says Mr Juncker's priority is growth and jobs in Europe

Secondly he may be a conservative but, as Daniel Cohn-Bendit once remarked, Mr Juncker has been the "most socialist Christian Democrat". He told the parliament today that the internal market was not more important than social affairs.

He described himself as a champion of the social market economy - but he said it would only work with social dialogue. He called for a "re-industrialisation of Europe". He came across as an activist, interventionist president with an ambitious programme of investment, mobilising a 300bn-euro (£239bn; $408bn) war chest over the next three years to be invested in key projects.

He said the growth and stability pact - which limits deficits to 3% and debt to 60% of GDP - would not be altered but flexibility would be explored in order to boost growth. And mindful of the damage done by austerity in countries like Greece, he vowed that no bailout programme would be introduced without assessing the social impact in advance.

Last week and again today he insisted he was not a federalist and had never used the words "a United States of Europe" but then he eulogised another Commission president, Jacques Delors: "He is my friend, my mentor. He inspires me every day." Jacques Delors was one of the architects of the euro.

Dreamer

Mr Juncker will take up his new office in November full of ambition. He envisages

  • a digital single market
  • an energy union with the aim of becoming the world number one in renewable energy
  • a trade deal with the United States which does not "sacrifice Europe's safety, health, social and data protection standards"

He comes across as pragmatic, a man who says he wants a fair deal for Britain but, inside, the fires burn brightly for the European project. He will not allow a watering down of the key pillars like the free movement of people which he regards as an integral part of the internal market. He is very much a man who sees himself as continuing to build the European home.

Whilst he was listening to the speeches, I saw Mr Juncker looking down at his mobile pone. At that moment my own phone announced that Lord Hill would be nominated as the UK's next EU commissioner. In fact Mr Juncker had been given the name the night before by David Cameron.

In Strasbourg almost no one had heard of Lord Hill. There was a desperate online search to define him. In the corridors of the European Parliament there was much shaking of heads. Why once again was it asked had Britain not put forward a big political hitter, a Neil Kinnock, a Peter Mandelson or a Chris Patten?

Some questioned whether it was a tacit acceptance in London that the UK would not land a top economic post like the internal market or trade.

It was being said in government circles that Lord Hill was a good political fixer, who had set up a PR business and who had ably been the leader of the House of Lords when the Conservatives did not have a majority.

Jean-Claude Juncker over the next two months will decide in consultation with the member states who gets what posts.

He will not want to do anything that pushes the UK towards an EU exit but neither will he compromise what he called today the "European dream".

 
Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 410.

    @382.Jezza
    "I asked Farage a question once and he turned away, ignoring me"

    Perhaps that was the response the question merited.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 409.

    395. margaret howard

    With the onset of the Euro,1euro was near as damm it .70 pence.
    To day it's near as damm just over .79 pence, 9 pence is not failed currency,its designed to fluctuate & does.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 408.

    @399

    I wonder how much investigation the press is going to do into Luxembourgs policy of aiding and abetting corporations to evade corporate taxes in other countries.

    Not a lot I would say. The reason is that many of these schemes were set up by Juncker himself.

    Juncker, a real man of the people. Well that was sarcasm obviously.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 407.

    "When things get serious," he said, "you have to know how to lie."

    Pretty much sums up the tactics used to push on with the European project whatever the people's of the various countries think and the scarmeongering that is often used to crush disssent.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 406.

    marvri@390
    "Euro
    by bankers
    to benefit
    themselves"

    IF amongst these who approve workers taking unequal 'reward' (from till, or back of lorry, or in brown envelope without finger-print, or in demanded special shares, or in lottery of pension investments), WHY be surprised that bankers - like any others - take 'opportunities'? IF you wish to have Mr Juncker 'on your side', agree equal partnership.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 405.

    Where have all the Have Your Say's gone?

    There have been hardly any HYS on serios topics for the last week or two!

  • Comment number 404.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 403.

    386. fuzzy
    I'd hope Juncker would take you more seriously.
    ____

    I don't need Juncker (or Farage) to take me seriously. What they need is for me, as a voter, to take them seriously.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 402.

    376. marvri75

    "Never heard of the WTO? The EU is totally unnecessary for trade"

    Thank you for mentioning that

    China does a massive amount of trade with the "EU"

    Is not in Europe

    Is not in the Euro

    Has no common border with the "EU"

    Is not even on the same ocean as the core "EU"

    & many contracts R signed under ENGLISH law. Not Scottish, European or British law. English law

    Referendum!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 401.

    395.margaret howard, The pound is starting to recover against the stronger currencies, including the Euro, and is back to where it was around the end of 2007 and continuing to gain strength.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 400.

    382.Jezza
    I asked Farage a question once and he turned away, ignoring me.
    ---
    I would hazard a guess that that the question wasn't "would you like a pint?".

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 399.

    Is this the same guy who put in place all those clever "tax efficient" measures in Luxembourg so beloved of companies like Vodafone ?
    A few months ago the EU announced an investigation into the validity of these financial instruments, I wonder how thats progressing.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 398.

    Can we just vote now so we can leave this freak show of a circus.

    Un-elected clowns, people who either have VERY personal interests in what they're doing within the EU, or come from poorer countries who clearly see the wealthier member states as cash cows.

    Enough's enough, lets get out, take immediate control of our borders and stop the direct debit to the EU with immediate effect.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 397.

    How about a follow up; "The Real European Union" what it is, who it is, why it was created, how it really works, what its goals are, and how well is it doing. It would not make for pretty reading. It won't be easy to write because these truths are not self evident nor are they readily available. It's not what they want you to believe. The real truth is kept secret, what you see is a façade.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 396.

    margaret howard @384
    "corrupt olive oil"

    Supposedly the Mediterranean diet is or was 'more healthy', but maybe only because they 'didn't even have a proper airport road'? Beneath the corruption a healthy rural stratum? Mr J's 300bn-euro fund might help, but without partnership between agreed equals we will fail: illness surviving the NHS; poverty & strife surviving Euro-ideals. Look to Lord Hill?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 395.

    365 Karen

    "Single currency does not work and never has"

    The pound has LOST over 25% of its value against the euro over the past six years. Has it become a failed currency that does no longer work?
    =

    "people flock to the northern countries - subsidise the poorer member states"

    Is that any different to anwhere else? The people in rich London support the poor hill farmers of Wales?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 394.

    387. KURGANCODE
    It's more a case of pedantic denial on your part
    ______

    Denying what exactly? You make 3 statements, 1 of which is a subjective interpretation, 2 are conjecture. I am just asking you to back up your statements. That's quite reasonable. There is nothing to deny. You might as well accuse me of denying aliens exist. Or Santa Claus.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 393.

    384. margaret howard

    "Making laws for the peoples of Europe? Isn't that what the empire did not so long ago for people in far away countries?"

    Yes!

    And that is why it was abolished, because it was undemocratic

    And the "EU" should be abolished because it is undemocratic

    And very many, presumably most, Brits don't want to be part of Junkers, Merkels empire

    So give us a referendum

    NOW!

    AfD

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 392.

    At PMQ's Charles Kennedy stood up and stated incerrectly that Junker said there would be no more countries joining the EU until 2019, and Cameron agreed with him. Junker said that this did not apply to Scotland. Now this is important. It tells me that he is opening a door for the Scots, and possibly the Euro. + Only a foolish leader would close the door on Europes largest oil and gas producer.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 391.

    @384.margaret howard, its not had much success as it, corruption is still rife, and the greek economy is still largely dependant on olive oil, shipping and tourism.

 

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