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“Follow the line of the past” EPP urges Juncker who could mediate on flexibility

“Follow the line of the past” EPP urges Juncker who could mediate on flexibility

While Juncker opened a window for a softer interpretation of rules during the hearings at the European Parliament, the EPP reaffirmed its no to any change course. Juncker is not suitable for leading the Commission according to GUE and EFDD. Greens: “There are positive aspects.”

They had been talking and debating for two days: Juncker as made his proposals, with some sort of concession, while the others made their requests and expressed their objections. Still, at the end of these days of hearings for the appointed President of the European Commission, each party held its positions. Juncker is still Juncker, “allergic to deficit and public debt,” as he reiterated with GUE, convinced that the Stability Pact should be applied “as it is” with just a little of common sense. And the political groups which were against him didn’t smooth their criticism. “Juncker’s priorities do not reflect our vision for the future of the Union,” said a lapidary Gabi Zimmer, GUE President, after the hearing with United Left. The appointed President “hasn’t offered convincing answers,” on issues such as “Troika, the role of the new Commissioner of the EU for Immigration and a European New Deal financed with EU own resources,” confirmed the Italian delegation of Un’altra Europa con Tsipras.The refusal by the eurosceptic EFDD was obvious as well. Juncker assured he is not a passionate federalist that he has never used the expression “United States of Europe” and said he favours the re-handing of some competences to the UK while he was talking to British nationalists – as long as this does not block the process undertaken by States willing to improve their integration. Still it was not enough. The debate was rich in cheap shots too. Farage welcomed Juncker like this: “We have been told you like a drink, you’re a smoker. We couldn’t care less.” Juncker replied jovially: “Can I have a cigarette?” Then: “What are you going to do for the EFDD group?” asked him a member from the Swedish Democrats. “I’ll do my best to have a smaller group of you,” retorted the appointed President. Five Stars Movement MEPs asked him to take a stance on the behaviour of the other political groups, which have de facto excluded the EFDD from any office of the Parliament, but Juncker got rid of this saying he didn’t know all the facts, “I don’t meddle into issue which do not concern me.”

Greens were more open to dialogue. “There are positive aspects,” admitted the head of the group, Rebecca Harms, after the audition. She explained that now the group will discuss about the outcomes of the hearing to decide between two different levels: from one side, “we think it would be much better for the President of the Commission to have the support of citizens after the election,” still on the other side “we need to discuss the political programme. During the hearing there were some issues we liked and some others that we did not like at all as Greens.”

The true front lines on which Juncker needs to work for being sure of having a majority at the Parliament are Liberals and Socialists though, and these two groups will give their green light only at the eve of the vote. The head of the S&D group, Gianni Pittella, is to hold another meeting with Juncker today for trying to adjust some issues that haven’t convinced Socialists yet, like immigration and flexibility – an issue on which Juncker is available for mediation buts it’s no manoeuvre room left by the EPP. “Juncker guaranteed he will follow the line of the past,” reiterated the head of the EPP group, Manfred Weber, after the hearing. The former Luxembourg PM, reminded Weber, “had been the President of the Eurogroup for a long time, and said the economic policy decisions taken against the crisis in the euro area were right.” And last, the jab against the S&D: “In the Eurogroup several Socialist Ministers supported the measures we adopted,” reminded Weber, “and I’m surprised they now support the need for a completely different approach.”