The election of Jean-Claude Junker as President of the European Commission -unless he is not ratified by the European Parliament on November 1st- is literally a win of democracy for the European Union (EU). Mr Junker was the candidate with EPP and as long as his party won in the elections for the European Parliament, he physically comes into power. This was also the reason why candidates were selected for the first time in the EU history to run the presidential campaign and be nominated for the highest position in the European institutional system. We can definitely agree that Junker did not win the impressions, unlike Guy Verhofstadt for instance, or that he did not have any freshness in his speech, but this is history now.
Therefore, with the selection of Junker the leaders of the member-states did a step closer to a more democratic Union, respecting the outcome of the elections and deciding – for the first time- with qualified majority, not consensus. The strong and consistent opposition of the British Prime Minister David Cameron against the election of Junker was the headline of the last month in the European media. David Cameron was so persistently negative to the election of Junker that he finally achieved to isolate his -big and powerful- country within the EU, in an effort to cease down or somehow appease the continuous pressure of the British political establishment and electorate with regards to the downgrading of the national economy these years of austerity. It goes without saying that this pressure came up to strengthen the position of Nigel Farage and UKIP in the local and European Elections – and this is something Cameron can hardly manage or control.
Along with Britain’s isolation, David Cameron lost a critical support. Precisely, that of Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor soon realized that the opposition of Cameron could, and did finally, end to a deadlock for himself. Her tone in the European Council a couple of days before the internal voting for Junker was clear and sound, underlining that the EU is not threatened or blackmailed by anyone. David Cameron did not profoundly understand that, and he kept opposing to Junker’s candidacy even stronger. In addition to that, his strategic wrongdoing pushed a number of other member-states that were not that supportive of Junker’s bid to alter their position and finally vote for him.
The message of Chancellor Merkel that the EU “is not blackmailed” can be interpreted from two different angles. The first has to do with Greece and the intention of the government to renegotiate its debt structure. The problem for the Greek government is that in order to cut part of its debt it has to give back something. And this “giving back” is very specific: more wage cuts and more layoffs. Such a development would be catastrophic – if not impossible- for the simple reason that the government would ignite wide and deep social unrest with uncontrollable political cost for itself. This is also the reason why a couple of months ago, the German Minister of Finance told that any discussion on the restructure of the Greek debt is left for the autumn. But who knows what the political landscape in Greece will be in autumn.
The second angle has to do with the bras de fer between Germany and France over the final imposition in the foreseeable -economic- model of governance in the EU. Merkel wants to keep going with austerity and as long as there is no alternative proposed by the French side, things will go as they actually are. Meanwhile, popularity of President Hollande cannot go lower, a fact that decrease its power to bring about significant changes in the economic policy. In addition to that, he does know, as many scholars and economists in his cabinet, that the economic performance and the macroeconomic conditions of the French economy are not all promising – not to say in a perilous state. The “barking” of Merkel against Cameron is also a message for Hollande on who and for how long will still ruling decision-making in the EU – and this is Germany.
Nonetheless, we still need to closely follow the outcome and development of Britain’s isolation after Cameron’s “defeat”. The referendum for the UK membership in the EU is far away and many things might have changed since then. For the time being, Cameron has another challenge to deal with: the future of Scotland in the British Commonwealth with reference to the referendum of the Scots this September. If the outcome is “NO”, which is for Scotland to keep going alongside Britain and freezing independence, Cameron would have achieved a big win and regained confidence to himself -and the Britons. In this respect, and as Nigel Farage and the eurosceptics are expected to gain ground in both Britain and the European Parliament, things can go harder for Cameron. But for his own political sake, and for the Labors as well, let us see if in the general election of 2015 (May, 7) developments could bring into surface something completely unpredictable and unprecedented for British politics: a grand coalition between the Tories and the Labors.Dimitris Rapidis