Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - Page 7 News List

British PM voices concern over European president

‘BACKDOOR POWER GRAB’:The method in which the president of the European Commission was elected was ‘without voters’ approval,’ the British prime minister said

AFP, LONDON

British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday stressed that his criticism of Jean-Claude Juncker was not personal, but warned that his election as European Commission president would be a “power grab through the backdoor.”

In an opinion piece published in various European newspapers, Cameron said that the concept of spitzenkandidaten — whereby the president is elected according to the results of last month’s parliamentary elections — was anti-democratic and risked fanning the flames of euroscepticism.

The British prime minister argued that EU treaties made clear that it was for EU heads of government to propose the candidate to head the European Commission — the EU’s executive — and not the European Parliament, as under spitzenkandidaten.

“This concept was never agreed by the European Council,” he wrote. “It was not negotiated between the European institutions. And it was never ratified by national parliaments.”

Voters sent a clear message at last month’s European elections,” he wrote. “The question now for Europe’s leaders is: How do we respond to this message?”

NOT MORE DEMOCRATIC

Cameron dismissed the idea that a president elected via spitzenkandidaten was more democratic than one chosen by national leaders.

“It is not an attack on Mr Juncker, an experienced European politician; to say this is nonsense,” he said.

Cameron has promised Britons a referendum on the country’s membership of the EU if his Conservative Party wins next year’s general election.

CAMERON ‘BLACKMAILING’

Juncker said Cameron — who is in favor of staying in the union — was “blackmailing” other European leaders when he warned that his nomination would anger British voters, and would push the country closer to an exit.

However, Cameron repeated that Juncker lacked democratic legitimacy.

“Nowhere was Mr Juncker on the ballot paper,” he wrote. “Even in Germany, where the concept of spitzenkandidaten got the most airtime, only 15 percent of voters even knew he was a candidate.”

To accept spitzenkandidaten “would shift power from national governments to the European Parliament without voters’ approval,” he said.

It would also “politicize the European Commission” and it represented a “power grab through the backdoor” by the parliament, he added.

“It would, in reality, prevent a serving prime minister or president from ever leading the European Commission — artificially restricting the pool of talent precisely when the EU needs to find the very best,” the British prime minister said.

“Now is the time for Europe’s national leaders to have the courage of their convictions by standing up for their place in the EU and what is right for Europe’s future,” he wrote.

“Now is the time to propose a candidate who will convince Europe’s voters we are acting upon their concerns,” Cameron added.

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