by Frank Schnittger
Mon Jun 30th, 2014 at 03:23:45 AM EST
So. Juncker was the duly elected Spitzenkandidat for the post of President of the European Commission for the EPP, the party which won the most seats in the European Parliament elections. He subsequently gained the support of 26 out of 28 Heads of Government and State on the European Council. And yet British Tories rage at the undemocratic nature of his election. Apparently he is an old school European who doesn't represent the will of the people as reflected in the outcome of the elections.
Except he does. This is the first time that voters could directly influence the choice of European Commission President with their vote. The fact that many voters knew little of the Spitzenkandidat system is neither here nor there. People vote for a party for a variety of reasons, and not always because they like the party leader. Most Prime Ministers are not directly elected by the whole electorate either. Junker has greater democratic legitimacy than any candidate Cameron or a group of cronies on the Council could have come up with, and it is telling that they couldn't even come up with an alternative candidate: Martin Shultz, Spitzenkandidat for the Socialists & Democrats, the second largest grouping in the Parliament would have been even more unacceptable to them.
front-paged by afew
In reality Cameron didn't have a leg to stand on, and ended up humiliating himself, and to a lesser extent the UK, as the vote highlighted how isolated the UK has become in the EU. Not surprisingly, if you spend all your time criticizing your Partners in the EU, they end up not being very supportive of you. A bit like the Republicans in the US, Cameron has raged against the 'big Government' of the European Commission and wants to repatriate many of its powers back to individual member states. But those who want to tear down much of what the EU has achieved are unlikely to be entrusted with running it.
I expect Juncker to be endorsed by a large majority of the European Parliament. Sure, a noisy minority may rail against his election. That is their right and part of the democratic process. It is unrealistic to expect unanimous consent in such a large and diverse body. The era of unanimity in EU decision making may well be over but robust debate is preferable to a cosy consensus. The greater danger for the UK is that, increasingly, more and more member states will not care what Cameron says, or whether the UK stays in or leaves the EU. That will pose a particular difficulty for Ireland, as it will disrupt relations with our largest trading partner and risk destabilizing the peace process in Northern Ireland, where the EU has provided an over-arching, unifying presence.
The EU hasn't exactly covered itself in glory during the current banking, financial and economic crisis. But as the commemoration in Ypres highlighted, it is still a lot better than what went before, and also probably a lot better than any conceivable alternative that Cameron et al may want to offer: an alternative they have conspicuously failed to articulate. If anything, it is the neo-liberal and nationalist "reforms" they advocate that are the busted flush of the recent economic catastrophe. The problem hasn't been too much EU regulation, but too little, of the banking industry in particular, and of economic and fiscal divergences in general. Juncker's crime was that he didn't sign up to the "reformers" agenda. And for that we should be grateful.