By Neil Madden
STRASBOURG, June 10 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday reiterated her support for Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission (EC).
Speaking in Sweden following a 'mini-summit' hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Merkel said the focus of the discussion had been on policy rather than personalities.
But when questioned by journalists about Juncker, she stated: "I have said it in Germany and so I will say again here; Jean-Claude Juncker is my candidate for the position ... and I want to have him as Commission President."
However, also at the meeting was British Prime Minister David Cameron who has publicly stated his opposition to Juncker getting the top EU post. At a press conference following the talks it was clear that the German and British leaders still see no common position on the presidency.
EU member state leaders within the European Council must "take account" of the EP election results when proposing a new Commission president. But they are not obliged to choose the parliament's favored candidate.
Juncker is the chosen candidate of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest political block in the new European Parliament (EP).
However, Cameron affirmed his belief that the EU treaty rules mean it is still primarily the responsibility of the European Council and not the EP to select the new president.
Without mentioning Juncker by name, Cameron responded: "We are here to discuss the policies and approach of the European Union (EU) for the next five years. Obviously we need people (in the Commission) who can carry out those policies."
Juncker is viewed by Cameron as an old-style federalist incapable of driving the fundamental change in direction that Britain views essential for the EU's future after the European elections in May which saw large protest votes for a number of eurosceptic parties.
Cameron reiterated his desire for Britain to stay in the EU, but warned that the direction the Union takes over the next year would be a hugely important factor in whether the country stays in or out.
Cameron has promised an "in/out" referendum on EU membership in 2017 should his Conservative Party be re-elected in next year's general election.
"I want Britain to stay in a reformed EU, that is my goal," he said.
On Monday Cameron was buoyed by a blunt statement from opposition Labor Party which said its members in the European Parliament (MEPs) would vote against Juncker if he were officially put forward as EC President.
"Labour will not support Jean-Claude Juncker as a candidate. Should Mr. Juncker be put before the EP, Labour MEPs would vote against him," said a Labor spokesperson. "The message from the European elections was clear - that we need reform in Europe. We need reform so we can promote jobs and growth. Mr Juncker's record shows he would make these reforms more difficult."
Labor has 13 MEPs who sit with the 196-seat strong Socialists & Democrats Alliance.
The European Council is supposed to put forward a name for the EC President following a summit meeting at the end of June. That candidate then has to be approved by an absolute majority in the EP.
However, it is by no means certain that this agenda will be adhered to given the current impasse.