Jean-Claude Juncker strives to win hearts and minds in Parliament

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European Parliament political groups quizzed Commission President-designate Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the plenary vote on his candidature, scheduled for 15 July. Mr Juncker requested a series of meetings with MEPs to seek Parliament’s support for his election and build a majority behind his programme.

On 15 July, MEPs will hold a plenary debate with Mr Juncker in Strasbourg, before voting on his nomination to become Commission President. He will need a majority of at least 376 MEPs to be elected. Mr Juncker met the S&D, ECR and ALDE groups on Tuesday and the Greens, GUE/NGL, EPP and EFDD groups on Wednesday.

Reactions from political groups

EPP group President Manfred Weber said: “It is important for Europe to get back to work on a platform of strong reform. Jean-Claude Juncker made it clear today that, under his leadership, the European Commission will be ambitious, with a clear agenda. We are certain there will be a large majority in favour of Mr Juncker in the European Parliament next week. The election of the new Commission President will be a milestone for Europe. It will bring more transparency and more democracy into the European political arena. The election of Jean-Claude Juncker is the first of the EPP successes for the next 5 years. The next steps are to pursue reforms.”

Commenting on the hearing, S&D President Gianni Pittella said: “A positive and useful but not yet fully satisfactory meeting. (…) "We are glad to know that the next commissioner for economic and monetary affairs will be a member of the socialist and democrat family. This is good news indeed, however we also call for more clarity and detail on the so-called 'best use' of flexibility instruments set out in the Growth and Stability Pact”. “Negotiations have just started. We won't stop here. The S&D Group's final decision on whether to support Juncker has not yet been taken. We will continue our debate next week in Strasbourg ahead of the final vote on Tuesday.

ECR President Syed Kamall said after the meeting: “The group held a good discussion with Mr Juncker and there were many areas where we believe we can work with him if he is confirmed.” “However, we cannot subscribe to the process that brought Mr Juncker to this point. We believe it represents a shift of power away from the Member States and towards the parliament (…). We hope that we are proved wrong but based on the process and this exchange of views, we cannot support Mr Juncker next week.”

The ALDE said in a public statement after its meeting that “The ALDE Group has decided to participate in a pro-European majority in Parliament. This majority is essential to support a strong European leadership to promote a pro-European and progressive agenda in view of the populist and anti-European groups now in existence within the Parliament. But our support for Mr Juncker will not simply be determined by his excellent pro-European credentials. Our support will also depend on the content of his programme and on the degree with which our political family is fully represented in the European Union’s executive so that we have the capacity to implement our priorities.”

GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer said: “Juncker's priorities do not match our vision for the EU's future. While he seemed to criticise some of the stifling policies pursued by EU leaders – such as the undemocratic nature of troika - in recent years, he was not willing to abandon it and shied away from proposing a real departure from these failures. This is simply not good enough when ending austerity with its devastating impact on millions of citizens is clearly the key challenge of our times. We also sought assurances on the TTIP trade agreement currently being negotiated but were disappointed with the responses received.”

After the Greens/EFA group hearing, Co-Presidents Rebecca Harms and Philippe Lamberts said: “Mr Juncker's statement that he wants to build as broad a pro-European coalition as possible was very welcome. Clearly, we come from different political backgrounds and not all his responses matched our vision for the EU, but there is also some common ground. MEPs in our group must now decide how Mr Juncker's plans fit with our priorities for the coming 5 years.”

EFDD group Co-President Nigel Farage said: “We are very pleased that Mr Juncker chose to come and speak to the most Eurocritical group in the European Parliament. Mr Juncker showed himself to be completely out of touch by saying migration within the EU was a ‘marginal issue.’ In saying this, he will take the UK closer to the EU exit door. He also shocked us and is clearly trying to charm the sceptical vote in the Parliament by denying the existence of a European people. This runs contrary to everything I have heard here after being a MEP for the last 15 years.”

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