This afternoon Britain will be once more isolated from mainland Europe

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande (from right to left). The British PM doesn’t seem to have convinced the French leader, who has obviously lost interest in the discussion and looks the other way for a chance to escape the English narrative. (European Council – Council of the EU Newsroom).

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande (from right to left). The British PM doesn’t seem to have convinced the French leader, who has obviously lost interest in the discussion and looks the other way for a chance to escape the English narrative. (European Council – Council of the EU Newsroom).

This morning the European Council will carry out an unprecedented procedure. The 28 EU leaders are supposed to nominate Jean-Claude Juncker as candidate for European Commission President by qualified majority, in a vote that has never taken place before. Then, Juncker, or an unlikely other candidate has to be also approved by the MEPs. Up to now the next Commission President was unanimously elected for the next five years in a consensus, achieved in the Council, after negotiations behind closed doors.

As things stand now the next Commission President is to be elected according to the provisions of the new EU Treaty (the Treaty of Lisbon). Under this light, the main European parliamentary groups, which participated in the European elections of last May, had named their candidates for the EU top job many weeks in advance. Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourgish) was nominated by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), Martin Schulz (German) by the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Guy Verhofstadt (Belgian) by the liberals (ALDE), Ska Keller (German) by the Greens and Alexis Tsipras (Greek) was proposed by the European Left.

A general political consensus

On 15 May, ahead of the elections of the 25th of this month, in an also quite exceptional occasion, all those politicians participated in a TV debate. This extraordinary event was hosted by the European Broadcasting Union and shown on 49 TV channels in 24 languages. At the end of the debate the five candidates agreed that, “one of us will be the next President of the European Commission”. This was not only a promise to voters, but it also constituted a general political consensus of the five more important European party leaders. All five of them solemnly agreed to support the one of them, who’s party would win the race.

In this sense, the 500 millions of European citizens became aware that they were about to elect not only their MEPs but at the same time the next President of the European Commission. The five political groups that those statesmen represented had the absolute majority in the previous Parliament, and as it turned out, they retained it in the new one.

Juncker won the race

The center-right EPP came first in the May electoral confrontation and Jean-Claude Juncker rightfully asked to be the first to seek the approval of the Parliament as next Commission President. However, according to the EU Treaty, the candidate had to be firstly endorsed by the European Council of the 28 EU leaders and then appear in the legislative. On 2nd June, the European Sting in its leader article observed that, “According to the EU Treaty’s provision, Juncker has the right of the first try in the Parliament… In fact, the Treaty of Lisbon doesn’t ‘suggest’, it clearly states the procedure to be followed in the election of the Commission President”.

Cameron chose to oppose the EU Treaty

Despite all that, the British Prime Minister David Cameron chose to vehemently oppose Juncker’s candidacy for the EU Presidency. In this way he challenged the Treaty of the EU, but as it turns out, the British Conservative leader also chose to oppose an almost unanimous mainland support for Juncker. The Brit managed to secure only the backing of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose company many European leaders would avoid.

On the other side of the fence, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel after some initial hesitations, finally decided to wholeheartedly back Juncker. Merkel also managed to secure the support of practically all the mainland leaders. Even Holland and Sweden that initially flirted with Britain finally decided to abandon London and decided not to test the unity of the EU.

Still, Cameron said last Monday that he will press the EU leaders to hold a vote, in case they nominate former Luxembourg Prime Minister to be president of the European Commission. Cameron succeeded, after exerting strong pressures, to get the backing of his country’s Labour Party. But this can’t offer him any help in tomorrow’s European Council, where the British PM will find out that only Orban is likely minded. Not a consolation in any respect.

Britain risks much, not the EU

Many commentators, especially those writing in mainstream English language media, insist that this conflict and the very probable endorsement of Juncker, will constitute a strong blow to the European Union. They say that nothing will be the same in the European Union after crowding out Britain. This is not true at all. An almost unanimous continental vote against Cameron’s aggressive option will certainly hurt Britain, but not the European Union.

Britain, under Cameron, has been staging many Quixote fights in Brussels, mostly for internal political reasons. After he pulled his party out from the EPP Parliamentary group some years ago, he discovered to his dismay that his country was left out from the mainstream European developments in the center-right political universe. After that, when in Brussels for a summit, Cameron couldn’t find a fellow leader to have a beer with in the evening. His loneliness and strong objections didn’t prevent the EU to introduce groundbreaking new institutions like the European Banking Union and the European Army. This time too, the EU will get along despite some ugly compromises and Juncker could be the next Commission President.

It was like that in December 2011, when Cameron challenged the creation of the European Army with all he had and again in December 2012 when he alone opposed the conception of the European Banking Union. After that, he has spent many lonely nights in Brussels while attending EU Summits, paying the price of staging hopeless fights in Brussels, in order to support his always crumbling position in British politics.

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