Hard choice: Insiders Juncker and Schulz vs outsiders ex-Irish PM Kenny and IMF head Lagarde.
Despite the huge eurosceptic vote in the recent elections, the next EU president is likely to be another federalist and not a reformer. Is the EU ignoring the continent’s growing discontent?
Future historians may see 2014 as one of the most significant years in European political history. Last month, voters across the continent went to the polls and gave a third of the seats in the European Parliament to eurosceptic parties who want to leave the EU or radically curb its powers. The French prime minister called it a ‘political earthquake’.
In the short term, Europe will continue as before: 70% of the MEPs still back the EU project. But commentators say supporters of UKIP in the UK, France’s National Front and Greece’s Syrizahave sent a clear message: the EU needs urgent reform if it is to survive.
Many voters feel that Europe has taken too much power away from national governments and has imposed unnecessary, meddling laws. A major sore point is immigration, with many complaining that free movement inside the EU has meant that cheap labour from Eastern Europe is taking away jobs from native workers. Eurosceptic parties want to roll back the EU’s powers.
This stormy background makes the MEPs’ upcoming vote for a new president of the European Commission highly significant. Jean-Claude Juncker is the leading candidate of European Parliament’s largest group, the EPP, and, after Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel backed him recently, he is widely expected to win.
But Juncker is a federalist who believes in a more centralised Europe — the opposite of what the likes of UKIP want to see. Many doubt he has the will or stomach to curb the EU’s powers. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron has allegedly told Angela Merkel that if Juncker gets the job, Britain may well leave the EU. If the Conservatives win the UK election next year, there will be a referendum on whether to stay in the EU. With Juncker at the helm, he warns, an exit is likely.
So if Juncker wins, the rising tide of anti-EU feeling, shown in the recent elections, will be ignored. If he loses, then the candidate supported by the majority of MEPs will be dismissed. It is a tough challenge for European democracy.
Juncking the EU.
Some say Juncker is supported by many national leaders and has the backing of the largest group in the EU parliament, so it is only democratic that he become the European Commission’s chief. Before we let a minority dictate the EU agenda, we should remember that 70% of those who voted did so for pro-EU groups.
Yet others say that appointing Juncker would should show that the EU has no interest in the views of European citizens and is incapable of reform. The EU should choose an outsider like Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, who would be willing to make the tough changes Europe needs. If the EU fails. the EU can only blame itself.
Allah protects Somaliland
Lecturer: Abdulkhaliq Mohamed Sheikh Osman- Birmingham UK