EU faces turmoil

The following editorial appeared recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Jean-Claude Juncker, former prime minister of Luxemburg, was nominated Friday as president of the powerful, 28-country European Union Commission. He was opposed only by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Juncker was the candidate of the European People's Party, the center-right coalition that won the EU parliamentary elections in May. Cameron had withdrawn his own British Conservative Party from the EPP grouping, eliminating his ability to influence its choice of candidates. Juncker, 59, was prime minister of his country for 18 years and has been involved in EU politics as well.

His nomination still has to be approved by the European parliament. The vote, set for July 16, is expected to be a formality.

Three questions remain. The first is Juncker's ability to keep his alcohol consumption under control, a topic discussed by EU officials. But other successful leaders, including Great Britain's Winston Churchill, had drinking problems. Juncker brings much experience to his post and is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The second is what impact his selection will have on prospects for EU reform. Changes sought by Cameron include making EU producers more competitive in world markets and limiting the expansion of EU authority into national government or devolving some EU areas of action back to capitals.

The third question is what impact Cameron's public defeat on the Juncker nomination will have on his political situation at home. He faces national elections before next May and has promised the British a referendum on EU membership if his Conservative Party wins at the polls. Some believe he opposed Juncker's election to curry favor with a British public that leaned toward right-wing parties in the recent European parliamentary elections.

Neither the EU nor the United Kingdom has reason to expect smooth sailing ahead. The EU has to deal with more financial crises, as well as the Russia-Ukraine drama. Great Britain has the referendum on Scottish independence in September and internal brawling about its future in or out of the EU, both large icebergs in the fog.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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