EU Internal Policy

‘Pipe down, Juncker!’ EU boss in trouble already as PM dismisses key plan within an HOUR

JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker’s ambitious plan for the future of the European Union was hit by a major defection within an hour today as Denmark ruled out one of his keynote pledges.

The EU Commission boss was brutally slapped down over proposals to merge his post with that of the European Council president after 2019, something he said would streamline decision making.Mr Juncker put reform of the bloc’s sclerotic institutions at the heart of his speech, saying Europeans needed to “catch the wind in our sails” and make swift progress on federalisation.

But the plan was always likely to go down badly with more sovereignty minded member states, which have already reacted cautiously to some of the proposals in the EU chief’s address.Some have interpreted the proposal as a threat to the very future of the EU Council, which is formed of the 28 heads of Government and currently sets the broad political direction of the club.

 is important member state institution. Let’s not mix roles and competences. Need @eucopresident as voice of member states 

EU chief Jean-Claude JunckerEPA•REUTERS

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker

And the fact that Denmark’s prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, saw fit to slap down the plans within just an hour shows how much opposition Mr Juncker will face to force them through.He tweeted: “The EU Council is an important member state institution. Let’s not mix roles and competences. We need the EU Council president as a voice of the member states.”

And adding further salt into the wound the Dutch PM Mark Rutte also got stuck into the EU Commission president, ridiculing his speech as a “romantic” but undeliverable wishlist.

In a brutal assessment of the address, he said: “Juncker is a romantic. I’m more someone who says: ‘Vision? Then you have to go to the eye doctor’.”

Danish PM Lars Løkke RasmussenGETTY

Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Let’s not mix roles and competences

Lars Løkke Rasmussen

At the moment the EU Council is led by Polish eurocrat Donald Tusk, who chairs meetings of the 28 leaders and liaises directly with Mr Juncker’s Commission over their priorities and concerns.In his speech the Brussels boss had suggested morphing the roles into one all-powerful EU president, who would be elected by voters across Europe rather than appointed as is currently the case.

The proposal is an effective resurrection of plans first put forward in the bloc’s failed 2004 constitution, which was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands before being repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty.

In his State of the Union address, Mr Juncker said: “Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

“Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship. Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.”

He added: “My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union…where a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.”In his address Mr Juncker said sweeping changes to the EU institutions, which would also include electing MEPs on a European basis from 2019, could be achieved without treaty change.

He laid out ambitious plans for measures he said could be achieved without changing the bloc’s fundamental charter – something that would spark referenda in a large number of member states.

These include taking more decisions on joint foreign policy by majority vote, rather than unanimity, and setting up a European Monetary Fund complete with a eurozone finance ministry and minister.

Mr Juncker’s set piece address had been keenly anticipated after what has been a tumultuous but improved 12 months for the EU, following on from a rocky 2016 characterised by Brexit and the migration crisis.

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