Saturday, 18 June 2016

On the way out? Juncker and his, ahem, 'health issues'




Christine Lagarde and the IMF have decided to ignore the truce on campaigning until next week. No one can be surprised. Their latest warning is in the link below, if you can rouse any interest. 


I doubt the threats will have much effect. At this point, people have already been scared into wanting to stay, or determined to want to leave.

I will say nothing of the effects of the killing of Jo Cox on any of it.

Instead I will tell you about a piece on Jean-Claude Junker, president of the European Commission, which was published in Politico.eu on Thursday. For obvious reasons it was swept aside in the news coverage of the day. 

http://www.politico.eu/article/the-time-of-jean-claude-juncker-troubles-european-commission-president-investment-plan-travel-meetings-scheduled/

You might first want to see the 2015 video, link below, of Juncker at the European Council meeting in Latvia, giving the appearance of someone who had had too much to drink. 


The clip shows him backslapping – or ‘bitch-slapping’ as the internet has it -- and hugging various embarrassed politicians, then hugging the Hungarian prime minister and calling him ‘Dictator.’




None of this was any surprise to those of us who enjoyed the late night press conferences Juncker gave during the euro crisis. He was head of the eurogroup. And while other eurocrats such as then-Commissioner Olli Rehn gave answers as calculated as a Japanese robot, the apparently well-oiled Juncker often said far more than any communications officer would have advised. 


Which is why this tearing down of Juncker’s reputation in what is quickly turning into the EU house paper (the Brussels chief of Politico is an ex-spokesman at the Commission) is significant.

Maybe the sober, calculating lot at the top of the European Project have had enough of it, enough of the brandy-soaked joker stuff – sorry, the ‘personal health issues’ -- and also enough of the crisis pile-ups outside the EU institutions.

Certainly the Politico headline would fit that plotline: ‘The time of Juncker’s troubles: Political missteps, personal health issues, doubts about effectiveness and rising Euroscepticism impair Commission chief’s self-declared mission to save the EU.’

Politco lists the areas in which Juncker is ‘grasping for answers.’

‘On a range of fronts, from border fences to Brexit to the economy, Juncker’s Commission has struggled to plough a path out of the malaise. Economic priorities — from Juncker’s much-touted €315 billion investment plan to a transatlantic free-trade pact — have yet to show significant impact or have been derailed.’

‘Interviews with more than 40 EU politicians, diplomats and officials from countries across the EU — critics, supporters, and members of Juncker’s inner circle — as well as an analysis of his travel and meeting schedules, reveal a Commission president who is increasingly on the sidelines.’

‘…The decline in Juncker’s standing over the past 19 months has been so precipitous that the debate in some national capitals has shifted from what to do about it to whether it really even matters.’

‘“The truth is we don’t see him,” a senior diplomat from a large EU country said. “People don’t complain here because he is not indispensable to the everyday functioning of the EU. We sometimes don’t notice his absence.”’

‘…To be fair, the odds were stacked against the longtime Luxembourg premier from the outset. He took over the Commission at a time when Europe was still reeling from the trauma of the debt crisis. The debate over German-inspired austerity for wayward economies had deepened a north-south divide on the Continent.’

‘Yet it was Juncker himself who promised to upend the way things were done, to reinvigorate Europe. The man who earned the nickname “Mr. Euro” for helping to steer the eurozone through the shoals of the debt crisis vowed to use his magic touch on the EU. “I’m allergic to the division in north and south, small and big, weak and strong,” he said at the time.’

‘What’s missing from the Juncker Commission, critics say, is an overarching strategy. Political calculation and short-term tactics, whether the issue is France’s deficit or refugees, drive the agenda. Rather than fixing a north-south divide, his migration policies have deepened an east-west one.’

All in all, Juncker looks like a dead man walking.

Which, if the UK fails to escape the EU, is at least some consolation. What Britain does not need is an effective, active head of the EU executive.

On the other hand, Berlin has not failed to grab the chance to fill the executive power vacuum.


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  4. Who would be your best bet for most likely Successor?

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  5. Douglas Carter, it depends on what happens on Thursday.

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  6. PS Douglas Carter, whoever is President of the Commission in a year's time, his top eurocrat-in-charge is bound to be German.

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