UK Prime Minister David Cameron has congratulated incoming EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, despite having bitterly opposed his nomination. Meanwhile, a new poll shows more Britons supporting an EU exit.
Prime Minister Cameron telephoned Juncker to mend fences on Sunday, after having failed to block the Luxembourg’s nomination for EU commission president.
“They discussed how they would work together to make the EU more competitive and more flexible,” said a spokeswoman for the British prime minister.
“The PM welcomed Mr. Juncker’s commitment of finding a fair deal for Britain, and Mr. Juncker said that he was fully committed to finding solutions for the political concerns of the UK,” the spokeswoman said.
Cameron campaigned against Juncker, arguing that his nomination would take Europe in the wrong political direction. Juncker is a committed European federalist, while Cameron is pushing for reforms that would return powers from Brussels to the member states.
Rising euro-skeptic sentiment
The British prime minister forced a vote on Juncker’s nomination in the European Council, the decision-making forum for the bloc’s 28 heads of state and government. But Cameron was soundly defeated with only Hungary joining the UK to vote against Juncker.
Cameron warned that Juncker’s nomination could stoke anti-EU sentiment in Great Britain. In a weekend poll published by the Mail on Sunday, 47 percent of Britons want to leave the EU, while 39 percent want to remain in the bloc.
That compares to an opinion survey conducted earlier in the month by YouGov, in which 44 percent of Britons wanted the UK to exit the EU.
Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017, if he wins the next general elections.
‘UK indispensable’ to EU
Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the Financial Times on Sunday that Berlin would do everything in its power to keep the UK in the EU.
“The UK is an essential, indispensable component of the European unity,” Schäuble said.
“The EU without the UK is absolutely not acceptable, unimaginable,” he continued. “Therefore we have to do everything so that the interests and the positions of the UK find themselves sufficiently in European politics.”
The German finance minister went on to say that Berlin and London shared common ground on issues of economic reform and returning powers from Brussels to the member states’ national governments.
slk/av (AFP, dpa, Reuters)