Friday, 6 June 2014

Juncker versus Cameron - or how personal is the EU politics?

I have attended a conference in the Centre Edelmann yesterday about how the press perceives EU election process and results. Here is a couple of points:
1. In international press nobody gets what the EPP and S&D are, not to mention Liberals or Greens. But personalities play well. It is easier to build stories on them.
2. The press coverage was concentrated on the 2 big contenders: Schultz and Juncker. Apparently the scene was set by the first debate in France24. Poor Verhofstadt.... did not make it...
3. The Schultz-Juncker duel played really well in Germany in the last phase of the campaign. This creates a very tough situation for Merkel, as she needs to respect the democratic logic that came with it. It will be hard for her not to respect the official narrative that 'Juncker' won it. Even though in fact he did not... as most of European public did not notice....
4. We are now in a process of nomination of the Commission president that is hard to predict. This alone is a very interesting novelty for EU commentators.
5. The EP is exploiting its 'democratic legitimacy' to its limits. But European Council has a 'democratic legitimacy' as well. I would even claim that by the participation rate in the elections (EP - 43%) the European Council of elected leaders has much higher legitimacy (national elections turnout tends to be higher).
6. Now the game seems to be between Juncker and Cameron who voiced his strong veto. Can UK block the third Commission president in a row (Jean-Luc Dehaene, Guy Verhofstadt, now Juncker)?
7. The UK situation will be one of the key thing to watch over the next months. UKIP win shakes the whole political system.
8. Hollande has officially backed the presidential contest in these elections. Now it is actually France that gives a strong backing to Juncker... very interesting element.

The EP made a campaign under the slogan 'this time is different' Clearly it looks like it is. But before we jump into the nomination process we should spend some time and reflect on the Eurosceptic votes in UK, France, Italy (Grillo), Germany (Alternative fuer Deutschland) etc. Next time it might be quite different again...

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