Tuesday 5 July 2016

Why is there a media campaign against Juncker?

This blogger is no stranger of being part of an anti-Commission President – the old ones among you may remember "Anyone But Barroso" started by Jon Worth in 2008 – but I still wonder why there is and anti-Juncker campaign in EU-media in recent weeks and where it is coming from.

It all seems to have started with Politico's major article on Juncker some weeks ago, followed with pre-Brexit speculations and denials about Juncker's resignation.

Then, on 27 June, the Czech foreign minister went on the record to criticise Juncker, citing the former saying the the Commission President would not be up to the job. Euractiv and Politico both ran the story. The Financial Times had the Polish foreign minister on the record. Politico then ran several stories with denials from Juncker and his surrounding.

Some days later, Politico reported that Juncker still had the backing of a large majority in the EP, the only body that can make the European Commission (and thus Juncker) go, as I've blogged Sunday after the Sunday Times ran another story reporting calls from Germany that Juncker should resign. The Luxemburger Wort covers the attacks in several German media, such as an editorial in

EUobserver simply repeated the Sunday Times story yesterday morning, just to report the opposite in the evening, while still mentioning Commission Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Katainen as potential successors for the job.

I suppose you have to be part of the Brussels bubble to understand where all this is coming from.

Some central and eastern European countries, none of which share Juncker's europhile attitude anyway, and most recently some forces in Germany seem to want to limit the Commission presidents ambitions. A concerted media attack, with few sources on the record, shows that Juncker must have angered quite some people recently.

But since I cannot remember any similar attack on Barroso, this is probably a sign that, indeed, this Commission is more political than the last. Once you are political, you make (political) enemies.

The fact that Brussels (and some other) media play along could mean two things: either Juncker and his team have angered the journalists – I remember Juncker's Chef de Cabinet Selmayr being coined quite a control freak when he was Reding's spokesperson and chef de cabinet, so he may well have angered some journos in his current role – or journalists got bored over the lack of news stories because the EU does so few laws these days.

Or the Brussels bubble is afraid to actually deal with Brexit substantially, so they focus on key players instead. He against them. They against him. The Council fighting back, afraid to lose ground to the supranational level. The media, jumping on board because it makes a simple story.

Since I've been doing anti-Barroso campaigning in the past, I can fully understand the pleasure in running behind Juncker. But it's kind of cheap politics. It's not like Juncker doesn't do anything that could be expected of him when he was elected President; he was known for how he was, his political program was and is more than clear.

All that anyone seems to blame Juncker for post-Brexit is that he speaks out against what seems to have been the most fucked-up political campaign by UK politicians in our lifetime. The EU would do good to strengthen the pro-European Juncker for what will be difficult negotiations over Brexit (or whatever the future EU-UK relations will be called).