Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who the Heck Voted for Jean-Claude Juncker?

Much drama is currently being made around the person of Jean-Claude Juncker. Rolf-Dieter Krause, one of Germany's most prominent TV journalists, accused Chancellor Merkel in a TV commentary of "implementing a fraud. Not a fraud in criminal terms but, instead, in political terms. A fraud against the voters". Merkel, like all her colleagues of conservative parties in the EU, had endorsed Juncker as the European People's Party's (EPP) top candidate in last Sunday's EU elections. Now that the EPP has come out first in the EU elections, Juncker claims the job of President of the EU Commission and Merkel seems to back-track on him.

I agree that this is extremely poor optics. One shouldn't back-track from a candidate whom one has endorsed only a few weeks earlier. But which voters are being defrauded? Who the heck voted for Juncker?

I myself voted in Austria. I did not see the EPP nor the name Juncker on the ballot. So I checked the list of parties and candidates which ran for election in Luxemburg, Juncker's home country. Juncker's party (CSV) was on the list but not Jean-Claude himself. On whose list was he?

Juncker had made it clear from the start that even though he was the top candidate of the EPP, he had no intention of working in the EU parliament. Instead, he was only running for President of the EU Commission. But that position was not up for election last Sunday!

My understanding is that the President of the EU Commission is elected by a 'qualified majority' of the European Council (heads of state), 'taking into account the latest European elections'. This President-elect must then be approved by an absolute majority of the EU parliament. Since Juncker had no intention of working in the EU parliament and since his name was not on any list, it seems to me that it was Juncker who defrauded the voters when he asked them for their vote in an election to the European parliament where he had no intention of working. The more straight-forward tactic for Juncker would have been to try to become the candidate of the 'qualified majority' of the European Council! If the European Council doesn't want him as their candidate and if he doesn't want to work in the EU parliament, it will be the price he will have to pay for having put himself between two chairs.

I, for one, will not be sad if Juncker exits the European scene. Researchers could put together for each EU leader chronologies of all statements they have made publicly in the last 5 years, and each of them would show many contradictions. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Juncker clearly was the greatest chatterbox of them all; speaking when he should have remained silent and remaining silent when he should have been speaking; making incompetent statements; not only contradicting fellow EU leaders but just as often contradicting himself; making a virtue out of the fact that politicians have to lie from time to time; etc.

It was a little over one year into the crisis when I wrote, on July 5, 2011, Jean-Claude Juncker a letter stating that "it is beyond my abilities to explain to you in a convincing manner how much damage you have done in the last 2-3 years to the stability of the Euro financial system with your ill-informed and often self-contradictory public statements".

Jean-Claude Juncker is a charming man and a smooth operator with quite a bit of ironic wit. He has charisma and likes to kiss his female colleagues on their cheeks. So I guess he does well on the soft facts. Based on the last 5 years, I can see no hard facts which would qualify Juncker as an effective and competent President of the EU Commission.


  1. There was an interesting discussion on the matter (including comments from me) on Yanis Varoufakis' blog:

    Also, here are two other good articles related to the subject:

    1. Well it seems that I will have another political disagreement with Klaus. I agree that nobody voted directly for Mr. Juncker. I also agree with the fact that the EU rules can be confusing and unseemly. However my view of things is far more cynical. I do not expect my politicians to tell me the truth. I also expect myself
      to lie if I ever find myself in high political office. As PM Konstantinos Karamanlis (uncle) said: In politics there are things you say and never do and things you do and never talk about. The reason for this is simple: most voters are not rational, they vote based on a array of personal reasons, fears,prejudices, dislikes, a need to retain a perceived social status and a need to free ride (think NIMBY). Even rational persons (hopefully the members of this blog) are restricted by their own personal experiences, training etc. For example a banker and an engineer will see different aspects of the same problem and propose different solutions. This results in the voters asking for things they don't really want or for asking things that are impossible, contradictory (eg the English public wants less immigration
      and high economic growth but it seems that the country suffers from a shortage of skilled labour resulting in increased immigration, especially during economic booms) or very difficult to achieve in reasonable time frames. So good politicians lie and obscure and cheat to achieve good aims (eg FDR) whereas bad ones lie to stay in power. You choose based on your subjective opinion as to why the politician lies and keeping in mind that the priority of all politicians, good or bad, is to stay in power.
      The basic lie usually is the fact that the true political aim is not revealed. In any political situation the first question to ask is: is the aim they claim to have the true one? In the case of the EC the lie is consistent: the political classes were shooting for a Federal Europe, but they knew that people will never vote for it so they went about it indirectly by creating all the federal structures and bringing the electorate in front of a fait accompli.In the specific case we discuss we must wonder whether any politician is telling the truth about their ultimate aims. For example the moves of Ch. Merkel create the suspicion that she aims at more federalism while at the same time trying to avoid an in/out referendum in the UK under her watch. So she offers lukewarm support for J. C Juncker, after the press reminded her of the fact that Mr Juncker (and all other leaders of the political formations including MR. Tsipras) was a candidate for Commission president in an
      election specifically framed as such and got the most votes. So now she can say to Mr Cameron that she is trying but the press is holding her back and, in any case, the UK was complaining about a democratic deficit. Following this line of argument someone must wonder to whom Mr Junker was aiming at with the statements you mention. The ones I read in Greece seem to be a kind of winking of the eye towards Greeks, offering some hope in the face of German onslaught.The aim of these statements was
      to avoid a political explosion in Greece, which was far more important than some market damage to the EURO.

  2. So who voted for J.C. Juncker? Well many of us. Just not necessarily in the way we imagined. Another subterfuge or maybe confusing step on the way to Federal Europe.
    The same analysis can be applied to your post about the OMT. What Mr Schäuble is saying is that the ESM will never be used to avoid OMT. This is obviously a load of shit: nobody can create ESM and never use it. The political pressures will be huge. So Mr Schäuble is saying what his public want to hear, while at the same time preparing, in the background, his volte face.
    Finally a few more political points: elections are not about choosing the best. This is a platonic lie that goes round for the last 2500 years. Elections are about kicking out the manifestly bad, ensuring that nobody stays in power for too long and creating a stable changeover of power.In addition elections or democracy have nothing to do with what people want. In life it is not about what we want, it is about choosing from what we can have.The same applies to electorates. As, outside serious crises, nobody will get elected on such a platform politicians lie ("We all know what must be done, but we will never get elected if we say it" J.C. Juncker)

  3. Dear Klaus,
    I agree with you that Juncker is not suitable for the job. Unfortunately, I have serious doubts whether Martin Schulz would be any better. In fact, the political differences between are not very well visible.
    Female members of the EU Parliament may prefer to be kissed by Juncker rather than Schulz.

  4. Below is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's view on the subject: