Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Claude Juncker’

Juncker’s days seem numbered as Merkel cracks the whip

July 3, 2016

About a week ago I wondered why Jean-Claude Juncker hadn’t resigned after the Brexit vote.  He is not unaware that much of the “leave” motivation is linked to the behaviour of Brussels bureaucrats and that his name is high on that list.

I wrote then:

The President of the European Commission – a former PM of Luxembourg – is the living face of the privileged, protected, arrogant, unaccountable bureaucracy that is Brussels. The EC – more than anybody – else is the reason for the deep and widespread dissatisfaction in Europe with the way in which the EU operates and where it is headed.

It is time for Jean-Claude Juncker to resign. And that means that the leaders of the core countries need to tell him to go.

The politicians are now realising that Juncker is part of the problem. It would seem that Jean-Claude is not Angela Merkel’s favourite person at the moment. Juncker particularly riled the Germans, the French and the Spanish when he invited Nicola Sturgeon to came calling and then went on German TV to talk about independence for Scotland and N Ireland. The French and Spanish will not thank him for encouraging talk of Catalonia and the Basque country. Moreover it seems Merkel wants to keep the Brexit negotiations at the political level and to keep the Brussels bureaucrats away from the key decisions. If the reports in the Sunday Times, Express and Telegraph, among others, are correct, Juncker will be gone within 12 months.

The Telegraph: Angela Merkel could move to oust Europe’s federalist chief Jean-Claude Juncker ‘within the next year’, a Germany government minister has said, in a sign of deepening European divisions over how to respond to Britain’s Brexit vote.

The German chancellor’s frustration with the European Commission chief came as Europe split over whether to use the Brexit negotiations as a trigger to deepen European integration or take a more pragmatic approach to Britain as it heads for the exit door.

“The pressure on him [Juncker] to resign will only become greater and Chancellor Merkel will eventually have to deal with this next year,” an unnamed German minister told The Sunday Times, adding that Berlin had been furious with Mr Juncker “gloating” over the UK referendum result.

Mr Juncker’s constant and unabashed calls for “more Europe”, as well as his reported drinking problem has led to several of Europe other dissenting members – including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – to lay some of the blame for Brexit at his door.

Since the June 23 vote both the Czech and Polish foreign ministers have called publicly for Mr Juncker to resign – moves that one senior EU official dismissed last week as “predictable”. However, the rumblings from Berlin now represent a much more serious threat to Mr Juncker’s tenure. …….

“Everyone is determined that this negotiation is handled in the European Council – i.e. between the 27 heads of government – and not by the Commission, the eurocrats and the EU ‘theologians’ in Brussels,” a senior UK source told The Telegraph.

In a signal that battle has partly already been won, Mrs Merkel pointedly met with French and Italian leaders in Berlin last week, excluding Mr Juncker from the conversation.

Sunday ExpressThe fuming German chancellor is planning to wield the axe on the bungling bureaucrat, who is facing calls from across the continent to resign. Senior ministers in Berlin have been dismayed by Mr Juncker’s confrontational approach to Britain over the last fortnight and now believe he is “part of the problem”. 

…… In particular there is fury and bewilderment in Berlin at his decision to welcome Nicola Sturgeon to Brussels and then talk openly on German television encouraging Scottish and Northern Irish independence. ………… 

Support for the beleaguered Brussels chief appears to be ebbing away fast in Germany with the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper urging him to resign in a recent editorial. It wrote: “Juncker once again shows in a fatal way how little he sees himself to be a president of the Commission that represents the whole of the EU.”

That UK newspapers are contemptuous of Juncker is not all that surprising. But even the Letzebuerg Privat from his home country is pretty damning today:

There are three good reasons for a political resignation: a glaring failure in office, a scandal or a dramatic loss of acceptance. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker meets all three conditions for his overdue resignation. 

Disastrous Juncker

The EU needs deep reform in many areas. But most of all it needs to puncture the bloated egos of its many arrogant, privileged and protected bureaucrats.

And Jean-Claude Juncker’s name leads all the rest.


Why hasn’t Juncker resigned?

June 27, 2016

Why hasn’t  Jean-Claude Juncker resigned?

The European Commission, Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are answerable and accountable, theoretically to all the EU members but in practice to nobody.

MEPs are accountable in the sense that they are voted in every 5 years. But in many countries that use party list systems of voting, candidates are simply put on a list by their party and the voters have no or a limited say on who is going to be elected. 

In most countries it is very difficult to present a new list alongside the lists of the traditional parties represented in the national parliaments. Voters have a formal choice but not necessarily a real possibility to have their own views being represented by an MP or MEP.   ……..

MEPs receive €4,299 per month in a general expenses allowance. MEPs do not need to deliver any proof as to how their money has been spent.

Commissioners need to be accountable to the European Parliament. They are obliged to answer questions from MEPs both orally and in writing. Many MEPs do not feel that they receive satisfactory answers. Many believe that the Commissioners are hiding too much; ………. You should also have the right to know how the different Commissioners vote on the different topics put on their table, but at present one has no idea.

During 2004-14, under the mandate of Commission President Barroso, the Commissioners did not vote among themselves at all. Discussions took place behind closed doors on proposals for new EU laws. The Commission President often reads a text prepared by his official services. There is usually no real political debate. The President concludes. Most decisions are taken in the name of the Commission outside the Commission meeting room ……..

The Commission now publishes agendas and minutes of their decisions. However nowhere can it be seen how they actually came to those decisions. They do not provide access to documents relating to their discussions or preparations. EU Commissioners give information about the amounts spent on representation. Yet this does not happen for individual spending, unlike what journalists can receive or request in most countries from their national ministers. …… Commissioners may hire special advisors. These names are now published – but the information does not include the salaries paid for the special advice they may receive from political friends or others. 

Commissioners are proposed by the prime ministers or presidents of the member states. Often a prime minister or president proposes a candidate who could no longer be elected as an MP or appointed as a minister in his or her own country. When former Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed Peter Mandelson as an EU Commissioner he had already been twice rejected as a minister by the British Parliament at Westminster. 

Prime Ministers may sometimes propose the names of national politicians they want to get rid of. There is no election procedure safeguarding voters so that they may have the best candidate from their country. 

There is some EU accountability in some of the national parliaments. In Denmark the European Affairs committee has met in public every Friday since October 2006 and  it can  give negotiating mandates to Danish ministers before the latter can approve something in the  EU Council of Ministers.  

There is no other  EU country where ministers need to have a negotiating mandate for such votes at EU level. In most countries the national MPs are rather badly informed about EU law proposals and have no real influence. Even in Denmark it is normally the civil servants in the ministries who decide and implement the Danish position in the 275 Council working groups. 

They are assisted by 35 special committees composed of representatives from business organisations and NGOs in an tightly woven corporative system. 

The ordinary members of parliament, the media and citizens are sidelined in the important preparatory phase where most EU decisions are prepared and then adopted.

The President of the European Commission – a former PM of Luxembourg – is the living face of the privileged, protected, arrogant, unaccountable bureaucracy that is Brussels. The EC – more than anybody – else is the reason for the deep and widespread dissatisfaction in Europe with the way in which the EU operates and where it is headed.

It is time for Jean-Claude Juncker to resign. And that means that the leaders of the core countries need to tell him to go.


Juncker’s Luxembourg marketed tax avoidance

November 6, 2014

Maybe it’s just my jaundiced vision, but I don’t see the European Commission as being any repository for ethics or good behaviour.

Of course Luxembourg’s economy is dominated by its banking sector. In global competition it depends on its banks and financial institutions having a competitive advantage over other countries. And it now becomes clear that the country’s government did as much as they could to ensure that the country’s laws allowed these institutions to market and exercise this advantage.

Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker

It has now been revealed that Luxembourg, its government, its bureaucrats and its institutions have actively marketed their “tax avoidance” services to at least 340 major companies. Much of this was during the time that Jean-Claude Juncker was Prime Minister of Luxembourg between 1995 and 2013. This is the same high-living Juncker who is the new President of the European Commission and declared 3 months ago that he would “try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape.”  Juncker lives up to my low expectations of EU mandarins.

Of course tax avoidance is legal and not tax evasion. I have little sympathy for politicians who blame corporations for taking advantage of the rules they themselves make to minimise their tax payments. Any corporation would be failing in its fiduciary duties if it did not legally try to minimise its tax burden. For that matter any individual who for want of being familiar with the rules, payed more tax than he had to – even if it was for philanthropic reasons – would be just a fool.

(This has nothing to do with my view that taxes based on wealth generation are fundamentally counter-productive and should instead be based on wealth consumption or destruction).

The Guardian:

A cache of almost 28,000 pages of leaked tax agreements, returns and other sensitive papers relating to over 1,000 businesses paints a damning picture of an EU state which is quietly rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale.

The documents show that major companies — including drugs group Shire, City trading firm Icap and vacuum cleaner firm Dyson, who are headquartered in the UK or Ireland — have used complex webs of internal loans and interest payments which have slashed the companies’ tax bills. These arrangements, signed off by the Grand Duchy, are perfectly legal.

The documents also show how some 340 companies from around the world arranged specially-designed corporate structures with the Luxembourg authorities. The businesses include corporations such as Pepsi, Ikea, Accenture, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, Heinz, JP Morgan and FedEx. Leaked papers relating to the Coach handbag firm, drugs group Abbott Laboratories, Amazon, Deutsche Bank and Australian financial group Macquarie are also included. …….. 

……. The revelations will be embarrassing for the new president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who was prime minister of Luxembourg between 1995 and 2013. In a speech in Brussels in July, Juncker promised to “try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape.” He has insisted that the country is not a tax haven.

Pressure is already building on Luxembourg after the European Commission launched a formal investigation into whether Amazon’s tax arrangements in the Grand Duchy amount to unfair state aid. The Luxembourg tax arrangements of Italian carmaker Fiat’s finance unit are also under official scrutiny by Brussels.

Asked recently if such a crackdown risked damaging the economy of Luxembourg, one senior figure closely involved in the G20 reform programme said: “I don’t care. It is like saying: ‘If you fight drugs there will be no jobs in certain parts of Mexico.’” …… 


A drunk for President of the EU Commission?

June 22, 2014

If it was only the Daily Mail it would have to treated with a certain amount of skepticism and great caution for journalistic licence. But in fact the original article about the drunken behaviour of Jean-Claude Juncker who is expected (with the support of Merkel and Hollande but against the wishes of Cameron) to become the next President of the EU Commission comes from Der Spiegel.

And Der Spiegel is nothing if not staid and politically correct. So when the usually circumspect magazine states that Juncker’s normal state is one of being inebriated and where he is a problem “not with alcohol but only without alcohol” then it gives a lot more credibility to the extravagant claims in the Daily Mail.

I suppose the EU and the EC have both sunk so low that having a drunk as President cannot bring them further into disrepute.

Der Spiegel: Achtung, Alkoholkontrolle!

The more often Juncker’s name is mentioned, the more the questions which arise as to whether he would be robust enough for the office of President. Long-time companions report a string of  human weaknesses almost unknown to the general public.   .. Juncker threatens to be something of a political alcohol-test. 

… The journalist Pascal Steinwachs wrote in “Lëtzebuerger Journal,” mischievous tongues said, Juncker was actually not a problem with alcohol, only without...”

Daily Mail: ‘A drunk who has cognac for breakfast’

……. a Mail on Sunday investigation uncovered a number of fresh reports about his drinking:

  • A senior diplomatic source told this newspaper: ‘Mr Juncker reportedly has cognac for breakfast’.
  • He was allegedly ‘blind drunk’, acted in a ‘vulgar’ way and repeatedly used the f-word in a meeting.
  • A respected German news journal claimed he had ‘drunk too much for years’ in an article headlined Achtung, Alkoholkontrolle! (Attention. Breathalyser Test!).
  • A top Dutch politician called him a ‘stubborn drinker’, forcing Mr Juncker to issue an angry denial.

An EU envoy told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Juncker and his boozing is the worst-kept secret in Brussels. He is politically and personally unsuited to run the EU.’ 

His supporters, however, claim he is the victim of a dirty-tricks campaign. One said: ‘He has a proven track record in taking tough decisions.’

I like my occasional cognac as well. But cognac for breakfast does seem a bit much.

Hollande and his mistresses and Merkel and her drunks. Add to that a drunken EC President who is not elected but instated by consensus and it makes a wonderful advertisement of European democracy at its best!


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