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Merkel gives gentle backing to Juncker

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Merkel gives gentle backing to Juncker
Photo: DPA
11:25 CEST+02:00
Chancellor Angela Merkel gently backed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president on Tuesday, but appeared open to other suggestions in a summit between the leaders of Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron joined Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the summer residence of Swedish leader Fredrik Reinfeldt for a two-day summit on Monday and Tuesday.

The summit was officially discussing job creation and economic growth among the four leaders who are all keen to make the EU more economically competitive.

But a fierce row has broken out over who should take the post of the powerful European Commission president. Merkel has officially backed Juncker, but the British, Swedish and Dutch leaders are all sceptical of appointing the European federalist.

Both Cameron and Reinfeldt are opposed to the Spitzenkandidat nomination process, which would automatically make Juncker Commission president by virtue of him being the candidate selected prior to the last month's elections by the EPP, the group that ended up winning most seats.

There have been whispers, especially in Sweden, that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt could in fact be the best man for the job.

However, Cameron put an abrupt stop to the speculation

"We have been talking about policies, not people," he told reporters.

When asked about Juncker at the press conference, Merkel endorsed Juncker once again but stressed he was not the focus of their talks, which concerned policy.

“Questions about personnel were not the emphasis of our discussion. We wanted to focus on what has been talked about so little – the content [of what the EU Commission will do],” she said.

Merkel added that candidate names would be discussed at an EU Council meeting in June.

Asked about Cameron’s reported threat that making Juncker European Commission president would force the UK to leave the EU, Merkel said discussions were held in a “European spirit”. “Threats are not part of that,” she said. 

The four politicians, all leading countries that rank among the most competitive in Europe, took the chance to praise a productive evening of discussion.

"The Harpsund meeting is taking place at a time when the European Union is slowly coming out of the crisis and facing major institutional changes," Reinfeldt said.

"It's about how the European Union can adapt to a changing global economy."

He added that the four heads discussed the creation of jobs in the EU, and how the change in the global economy required reform and an adapting of industries, labour markets, and innovation capacity. He also mentioned that the EU budget was high on the agenda.

The Swedish prime minister also echoed the sentiments of Merkel and Cameron in that discussions were focused on policy rather than people.

"We have agreed that the future policy priorities of the EU must be decided before we can decide on appointments of different top jobs," he told reporters.

SEE ALSO: Merkel meets Juncker-sceptics at mini-summit

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