Mr Cameron Throws a Tantrum and Loses an Agenda

cPolitics must surely be one of the most fascinating of art forms. The levels of spin employed by artists to justify contradictory statements are at times mind-boggling. One of the current top-performers must be British Prime-Minister David Cameron. He has elevated spin to levels seldom achieved before.

For quite some time now, Mr Cameron has argued that the European Union needs more democracy and less backroom wheeling and dealing. The EU’s lack of transparency is one of the prime-minister’s pet peeves. He is, of course, quite right: The union could do with a bit more voter input.

One would have thought that Mr Cameron would welcome a strengthening of European Parliament’s so far rather limited powers. One would have been wrong. At first, Mr Cameron seemed rather pleased when it was decided last year to allow the EP a say in the appointment of the next president of the European Commission – the executive body of the union charged with running its day-to-day affairs.

It was decided that the blocs of political parties represented in the 751-strong parliament would each nominate a candidate for the post. At election time, this candidate would then be the leading face on the ticket. The bloc gathering the most votes was to be invited to present its candidate to the newly seated parliament for final approval.

“As it happens Mr Cameron severely dislikes Mr Juncker who he considers too manipulative, secretive and – in a word – way too continental, if not a puppet of the French and Germans.”

The politician so selected would become the EP’s official nominee for the presidency of the European Commission. Government leaders throughout the EU promised solemnly to attach great weight and value to the parliament’s recommendation on this matter. In fact, the EP was told that its nominee would carry the day.

The European Parliament is dominated by two caucuses: The European People’s Party (EPP, Christian democrat) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D, Labour). At last May’s European elections the EPP obtained 221 seats while S&D claimed 191 seats.

The EPP candidate for the presidency of the European Commission is the former prime-minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker whose nomination has now been duly endorsed by the parliament in Strasbourg.

Back to Mr Cameron and his quest for increased democratic control over the EU. As it happens Mr Cameron severely dislikes Mr Juncker who he considers too manipulative, secretive and – in a word – way too continental, if not a puppet of the French and Germans. The British Prime-Minister will have none of it. In fact, he seems to have gone off his rocker and threatens everything short of outright war should the Council of Ministers have the gall to accept the EP’s nominee for the post.

Most other EU heads of state are quite flabbergasted by the Mr Cameron’s outbursts and are beginning to wonder what happened to his oft-repeated love of democracy. The British prime-minister now argues that his nemesis Mr Juncker is not a proponent of more transparency and represents the much-despised old school.

However, Mr Cameron fails to address the elephant in the room: Mr Juncker is the European Parliament’s choice for the post. As such, he represents the will of the voters and stands to become the most democratically appointed president of the European Commission ever. That in itself may not mean much, but is surely better than assigning the post to whoever comes out on top after much backroom wrestling between heads of government.

In fact, the British prime-minister is throwing but a tantrum following the example set by Mrs Thatcher. The sad part of it is that he may even wear his opponents down and get his way. Should Mr Cameron succeed in blocking Mr Juncker, the UK will have to keep quiet for a depressingly long time in Brussels. For that is how politics work: You’ve had your way, now please shut up for a while. Thus, an opportunity at pushing through a reform agenda for the EU will be lost. i

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