The next EU President will first have to drink his tea at Downing Street

27/09/2011, Plenary Session in Strasbourg - Week 39 - Question hour with the President of the Eurogroup and Prime Minister of Luxembourg (EC Audiovisual Services)

27/09/2011, Plenary Session in Strasbourg – Week 39 – Question hour with the President of the Eurogroup and Prime Minister of Luxembourg (EC Audiovisual Services)

The fierce political race for the top EU job is heading to its climax lately. Roughly one month away from the European elections of 22-25 May and even the pigeons at park Leopold can feel the sigh of each and every of the 766 Members of the European Parliament. Many of them will have to dig up their dusty CVs again from their bottom drawer and polish them up, as for some the pleasant trips from Brussels to Strasbourg and back will be soon over.

On top of our good MEPs who are getting very much stressed up lately, five distinct politicians are fighting for the best paid EU job, the successor of the incumbent Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. The five, or six candidates, if one measures separately the double candidature of the Greens, are the following: the conservative old EU fox Jean-Claude Juncker from EPP, the persistent socialist Martin Schulz of European Socialists, the ex Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt at his third candidature with ALDE, known also from the past as “Baby Thatcher”, Alexis Tsipras from the European left, who believes industry is comprised of man-eating machines and the 2 in 1 Green candidature from the European Greens, Ska Keller & Jose Bove.

After the Lisbon Treaty the Parliament has a strong say on the selection of the President of the European Commission. However, it is the European Council that will have to nominate a candidate after weighting the ballot results in May.

The two candidates that are the bookies’ favourites are obviously Mr Juncker and Mr Schulz. We recently watched them earlier this month on the first TV live political debate. Watching this EU duel on 9 April, live from France 24, it was very difficult to discern a clear winner in terms of political thoughts and strategy. These are anyway the times in Europe where all politicians adopt mainstream, widely accepted tactics; even Jean-Marie Le Pen in France is projected to be against racial discrimination to gain votes from non thinking French citizens. The leaders of the two biggest European parties were also victims of a similar political decadence. I mean you did have during the debate the mother of all “dilemma’’ between fiscal consolidation and return to growth but what is really the difference between the actual political strategy of the two gentlemen, that remains still a good riddle to solve.

Moreover, it seems that the ex Premier of Luxembourg, as the clock is ticking faster and reversely towards May elections, is playing all his cards on Downing Street currently. It seems that it has been well understood in Brussels lately that the heavily polarised British society of more than 60 million voters has the power to shape the result of the EU elections to a significant extent. How else can it be explained the fact that the same conservative old school Federalist that was ‘innately’ supporting the free movement of people in the EU, he came out today to support the freezing of the expansion of the EU for five years, if of course elected. Mind you here that the British side via the strong voice of David Cameron is heavily against the uncontrolled movement and immigration of poor fellow citizens of new easters EU members into the UK. Or this is at least the result of the recent ruthless political campaigns of Downing Street with only aim to polarise the electorate.

I believe we all remember here the mother of all political promises of David Cameron to the British electorate that, if re-elected, he will hold a referendum in 2017 on whether UK will remain in the EU or go solo. Regardless of the fact that even the most eurosceptic economic analysts in the island have expressed their strong opinions that a possible economic isolation of the UK would mean deeper recession and political dead-end, Cameron holds a strong negotiation card here, and deep inside, Brussels knows it well.

The Luxembourgeois top politician, on the other hand, in an attempt to bridge the gap with Britain, he stated earlier today “I will work for a fair deal with Britain”. Further he interestingly added that “we can formulate answers to British requests … but … Britain has to accept that we want to strengthen the eurozone by adding new powers, I wouldn’t say to Brussels, but to the euro area”. One of the plans of Mr Juncker is to establish a focused president for eurozone and he knows well that he needs UK to be his ally for this one to succeed. Last, trying to maintain the balance and call for a half way solution in the political negotiations with the island he argued: “We have to listen to Britain, but Britain and the British political society has to listen to the other member states”.

All in all, it seems that the times are over that Brussels appeared resilient to the political threats of London that they will evacuate the building if hot issues like budget and immigration are not modified significantly. Juncker today made the first step towards the British voter and surely Schulz will not take too long to follow. In view of the May elections, there is no other choice for the new President of the European Commission, but to have a cup of tea at Downing Street.

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