Cameron's lonely battle at EU summit

Britain's prime minister has been vociferously opposed to Jean-Claude Juncker's candidacy to head the European Commission. He appears headed for a very public defeat.

Yves Logghe
Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite, left, talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, center, and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, during an EU Summit meeting in Brussels on Friday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing one of the most public defeats of his career in his opposition to whom will next head the European Commission.

His insistence that Jean-Claude Juncker is the wrong man for the job, despite the fact that most European Union leaders have rallied around the former prime minister of Luxembourg, has left Mr. Cameron isolated. Germany's Die Welt newspaper labeled him “the loneliest man in Europe.”

Heading into the EU summit today, where the nomination of Mr. Juncker could be sealed, Cameron did not back down, but pushed even harder, positioning himself for a humiliating setback.

“It’s the wrong person,” Cameron said in Brussels, insisting that he was standing on principle. “Jean-Claude Juncker has been at the heart of the project to increase the power of Brussels and reduce the power of nation states for his entire working life. He’s not the right person to take this organization forward.”

But as the Monitor wrote yesterday, the debate over Juncker’s nomination, which has become the talk of the town in European capitals, has implications far beyond just Cameron himself.

It “ has institutional and political implications for the EU. The showdown over his candidacy is testing the rules of democracy in Europe, and could ultimately harm the EU by putting Britain a step closer to leaving the organization.” 

Under pressure from euroskeptics in Britain who handily won  European parliamentary elections in May, Cameron has promised Britons that he will push to reform the EU and then hold a referendum in 2017 (if he’s re-elected in 2015) on whether they want to remain part of the 28-member bloc. He believes that Juncker stands in the way of reform that he says the EU desperately needs.

But as John Kornblum, the former US ambassador of Germany, said, if Cameron's intransigence hurts him on the Continent, it also could claim another victim: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany is much stronger with Britain as an EU member.

“Cameron is out there all by himself, and it hurts Merkel, too,” says Mr. Kornblum said. “They are each in a very uncomfortable position and they can’t get themselves out.”

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