Analyst: At this point Juncker is the only name on the table as next EC head

Jean-Claude Juncker, photo: European Parliament

At the weekend, Czech Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka met for talks with other European socialist leaders including French President Francois Hollande and Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico. Afterwards, Mr Sobotka announced that the Czech Social Democrats would be backing the candidacy of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next head of the European Commission. Europe-wide, socialists finished second in May’s parliamentary election: they will expect something in return for supporting Juncker as the next EC president.

Jean-Claude Juncker, photo: European Parliament
Radio Prague spoke to Czech analyst Jakub Janda of the think-tank European Values.

“What we are seeing is that there is basically a deal that was prepared by the Social Democrats in the European Parliament in return for supporting Juncker, to secure top posts such as the chairmanship of the European Parliament which could see the return of Martin Schulz. And there has probably been a deal that they will defend steps taken towards European integration in recent years, so they will join in a grand coalition to stop the rise of the far-right parties. What is good for the European Left in supporting Juncker is to stop the rise of those. The other aspect in all of this is to respect that the party which won the recent European election, the EPP, should be the one whose candidate heads the European Commission.”

There is the issue of David Cameron’s opposition to Juncker as a candidate; even former PM John Major chimed in at the weekend that his nomination would be a mistake, suggesting, in effect, that Europe would be bottled up in its current state. Yet, even Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka does not want to see that, suggesting that Europe should not be ‘locked in’ in its current course…

Jakub Janda, photo: Czech Television
“Both gentleman have a point. There is no escaping the fact that Jean-Claude Juncker very much represents the ‘Old Europe’ and that he has been involved in top institutions and has played a role in where Europe is now. Junker’s critics among the euro realists charge that he is really kind of co-responsible. The rise or backlash of the far-right is one of the results, to how the EU has been run.

“In the view of the critics, reflection on the future of Europe is needed and the proper answer to the problems faced by the EU now is not naming a Euro federalist like Juncker to lead the European Commission.

“Paradoxically, a recent poll suggested that only eight percent of European citizens know who Jean-Claude Juncker is. That kind of destroys the idea of spitzenkandidaten… It was supposed to be big names which were supposed to represent different ideological streams in the European context. If nobody even knows the leader, however, there has to be something wrong with that. And that is something which David Cameron has criticized as well.”

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: archive of Czech Government
At this point are there any other names even on the table? Anyone who could realistically still gain support?

“Probably not. In recent weeks, the names of the prime ministers of Denmark or Finland were discussed and it appeared Angela Merkel might throw support behind someone else. Since Cameron launched efforts to stop Juncker and at this point it looks like he has been defeated and has lost the battle.”