The most relevant snippet of information to emerge from all the recent histrionics in
Brussels was confirmation that Jean-Claude Juncker is a good
friend of .
In this country anyway, it well surpasses revelations about his drinking
On a visit to
Portugal in May, Juncker let it be know that he
had “great respect” for the Portuguese people and that “ is the city I love most in the world.” Lisbon
Affirmation of this goodwill came from none other than the former Portuguese prime minister and out-going president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, following Juncker’s nomination last week as Barroso’s successor.
Barroso said he was “delighted” with the choice of the overwhelming majority of European Council members. He told Portuguese reporters: “For over 25 years I’ve known Jean-Claude Juncker as very pro-European, a political leader with extensive experience…. and a friend of our country”
The European Parliament is expected to approve Juncker’s appointment at an extraordinary summit in
on July 16. Subject to the parliament’s rubber stamp, the former prime minister
(one of the EU’s six founder member states) will assume office when Barroso’s
mandate expires at the end of October. Luxembourg
When Barroso became president in 2004 he was a compromise choice. During his two five-year terms he has been widely perceived as a weak and uninspired leader. Critics have depicted him as “a visionless lap dog” pandering to the EU’s most powerful member states.
That is perhaps far too harsh a judgement considering he has had to juggle with the complexities of the often out-of-step European Commission, European Council and European Parliament during a tumultuous decade. The number of member states had just leapt from 15 to 27 and Euroscepticism was on the rise during his first term; the euro crisis dominated the second.
The extraordinary outpouring of protest votes during this year’s parliamentary elections was a clear indication of the deep and widespread disenchantment with the EU that was well beyond Barroso’s ability to control.
The centre-right European People’s Party, the centre-left Socialists and the Liberals have since negotiated and reached a deal for a pro-European majority in the parliament. The deal supports the appointment of key personnel, including that of Juncker from the centre-right as President of the European Commission and the re-election of Martin Schulz from the centre-left as President of the European Parliament.
Juncker faces a lot more opposition than that of British Prime Minister David Cameron who has stuck to his guns about Juncker being “the wrong person” for the presidency and declared his determination to “fight on” for major reform in the EU.
As a federalist, Juncker wants closer integration within Europe while radical left-wingers in
want out of the euro currency and the far right in several member states want
their countries out the union altogether. Portugal
Fortunately for Juncker, his opponents in the new parliament are a fractious lot.
Britain’s Ukip have formed a eurosceptic
alliance with Italy’s Five
Star movement, but France’s
Marine Le Pen and the ’
Geert Wilders have so far failed to come up with a united front. Netherlands
The best the media could throw at Juncker just before the presidential vote in
were reports that he is a heavy
drinker with a penchant for cognac at breakfast. Brussels
There was no mention that in the run-up to the 2010 general election in the
UK, David Cameron told workers at Fuller’s
brewery in ,
“I tend to drink bitter rather than lager.” Before that he had told BBC Radio 4
listeners that his choice of a desert island luxury would be a Jura single malt
Scotch whisky. London
Scotch whisky was Margaret Thatcher’s regular evening tipple.
’s blended was her preferred brand. She
once told a personal assistant, “You must have whisky to give you energy.” Bell
President George W. Bush apparently agreed. A heavy drinker before taking office in 2001, Jim Beam bourbon was his favourite.
Barack Obama apparently has a liking for Miller Lite Draft beer, but when photographed during a visit to
he naturally had a pint of Guinness in hand. Ireland
In tune with her compatriots,
Chancellor Angela Merkel is sometimes seen
enjoying a glass of beer. Germany ’s
Vladimir Putin, however, does not share his nation’s passion for vodka. It was
only during visits to Russia
that he developed a taste for beer, reportedly the only alcohol he touches. Germany
Shortly before becoming
François Hollande told the Revue de Vin de magazine: “Like many French,
I am seduced by the excellence of the wines of our country.” France
Perhaps Barroso’s lack-lustre performance in
Europe’s top job
can be attributed to his choice of drinks. Should he have gone for more whisky
and less port, or settled for iced tea instead of vinho tinto?