European Union leaders are due to meet in Brussels Tuesday to seek a way to recover from the weekend’s landmark elections that saw a partly hostile and largely apathetic public question their project of closer cooperation as never before.
Leaders including French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron were shaken to the core by anti-EU challengers, including Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Front (FN) who took the lead in their respective countries.
But these two leaders have offered starkly different alternatives on how to deal with the situation ahead of Tuesday’s EU summit.
Hollande has said that “France’s future is in Europe” and has remained steadfast in the defense of joint policies and common stands.
Cameron, under pressure from the anti-Europe UKIP and from the eurosceptic wing of his own Conservative Party, will increase his calls for drastic reforms to pull powers back from Brussels and give individual member states more breathing space to set their own policies.
While far right parties including Britain’s UKIP and France’s FN were victorious in the weekend’s EU vote, pro-European parties won the most votes overall.
The first battle will likely be over Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg and longtime leader of the group of nations with the euro currency, who wants to replace Jose Manuel Barroso as leader of the EU Commission.
The post is important since the commission proposes legislation and runs much of the day-to-day affairs of the EU.
Juncker is a committed federalist, which is anathema to France’s FN, the British Conservatives and UKIP.
He wants the post because he is the chief candidate for the European Parliament party group that got more votes than any other, namely, the center-right EPP group.
He was challenged for the job at a meeting ahead of the summit by Martin Schulz, president of the S&D Socialist of European Parliament group and Guy Verhofstadt of the liberal ALDE group.
All three groups saw their support fall in the elections: EPP dropped from 274 seats to just 213, the S&D Socialist of European Parliament fell to 190 from 196 and ALDE fell to 64 seats from 83.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also EPP, expressed tepid support for Juncker on Monday and the issue of his leadership bid could come up at the summit late Tuesday.
Leaders of six party groups in the European Parliament agreed on Tuesday to send out Juncker ‘’as the first to attempt the required majority” among parliamentarians to become Commission president.
He will now broker deals with other parties to win their support and get all of his own backbenchers to back him. And then, the overwhelming majority of leaders will still have to back him, too.
Date created : 2014-05-27