Cameron defeated as EU backs Jean-Claude Juncker
EU leaders confirm Juncker as president, with Hungary and the UK the only dissenting votes
David Cameron's hopes to derail Jean-Claude Juncker's campaign to be the next president of the European Commission were dashed today in Brussels as European leaders nominated the former prime minister of Luxembourg.
Cameron believes Juncker is too much in favour of closer political union and says his nomination ignores the "pro-reform message" sent by European voters last month.
He had sought to build a coalition of support among sceptical national leaders, but former allies Netherlands and Sweden changed tack earlier this week and pledged support for Juncker.
In the past, the presidency has been decided through informal negotiations and unanimous decisions. This time, Cameron forced the matter to a vote - in which he and the Hungarian prime minister were the only leaders to oppose Juncker's candidacy.
Jean-Claude Juncker: president of the European Commission
Who is he?
Born in 1954 in Luxembourg, his father was a steelworker, and it was through his trade union activities that Juncker became interested in politics. He joined the Christian Social Party in the 1970s and, according to the official EU website, he attracted the attention of the party leaders "due to his talents as an orator and his analytical mind". He became the party's parliamentary secretary in 1979 and rose steadily through the ranks until becoming prime minister of Luxembourg in 1995. When Juncker left office in December 2013, he was the longest-serving head of government of any EU country.
Who are Juncker's supporters?
His biggest cheerleader is the European People's Party (EPP), which last month named Juncker as its candidate for the presidency of the European Commission – but that was before the extraordinary results of the EU elections, which resulted in a huge surge in support for anti-EU parties such as Ukip and France's Front National. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also a fan, declaring on Monday that she intends to "use all of my discussions" to press for Juncker's appointment.
What is the EPP?
Founded in 1976, it was initially an agglomeration of Christian Democratic Parties but it subsequently expanded to include conservatives and centre-right parties, including Germany's Christian Democratic Union (Angela Merkel's party) and France's Union for a Popular Movement. Since 1999 it has been the largest party in the European Parliament.
Are the Tories are in the EPP?
Not any more. The Conservative Party disagrees with the EPP's federalist policies and in 2009 formed the Alliance of European Conservative and Reformists. With members from many European nations, its website says it is working "to reform the European Union".
Why does Juncker think he deserves the job?
Because he's the candidate put forward by the European People's Party, and they won most seats in the European Parliament elections last month – thereby fulfilling what's known in EU vernacular as the Spitzenkandidat nomination process.
A German word, of course, describing the process by which the main political groups in the European Parliament promote candidates for the presidency in what the Economist describes as a "dubious attempt to make the EU more democratic".
What's Cameron got against him?
With Ukip's strong showing in last month's European elections, Cameron knows Europe will be a key battleground for next year's general election. He has pledged to try to reshape Britain's ties with the EU and promised to give British voters an in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017. In Cameron's view Juncker is an EU federalist who will be neither willing nor able to deliver the necessary reforms.
Does Juncker have a hinterland?
Yes, at least according to JunckerFacts.eu, a French website that claims to be a 100 per cent true repository of all-things Juncker. For example, Juncker has two allergies, broccoli and precision; his favourite pop band is Status Quo; and the only reason he doesn't walk on water is in order to protect the environment.