Cameron suffers defeat in Brussels as leaders chose Juncker for top EU job

Willie Grace | 6/30/2014, 8:26 p.m. | Updated on 6/30/2014, 8:26 p.m.
Jean-Claude Juncker is a step closer to becoming the next president of the European Commission after EU leaders approved his ...

Jean-Claude Juncker is a step closer to becoming the next president of the European Commission after EU leaders approved his nomination, despite strong opposition from Britain.

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, announced in a tweet: "Decision made. The European Council proposes Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission."

Only British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban voted against Juncker.

The former Luxembourg prime minister will represent the 28-strong union globally and become the answer to the question posed by American presidents for decades: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"

Negotiations over the post have been tricky.

One of the most powerful European leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, endorsed the former Luxembourg prime minister, who is a member of Europe's strongest political party, the center-right EPP.

Merkel and Juncker share views on closer cooperation and stricter fiscal discipline within the EU.

Merkel's endorsement was enough to defeat Cameron, who headed up a group campaigning against Juncker's appointment in the lead-up to the summit in Brussels, arguing that Juncker was too federalist for the job.

But as the decision neared, Cameron's allies in Sweden and Denmark toned down their opposition and agreed to back Juncker for the job.

When the leaders voted on the issue, Cameron found himself isolated, joined only by Hungary's PM Orban.

Cameron, facing pressures from euroskeptics at home, has criticized the EU as being "too big and too bossy."

A European president in favor of even closer cooperation -- as Juncker advocates -- runs against Cameron's plans to reform the UK's position within the Union and bring some power back to London.

The EU election in May saw a surge in the support of euroskeptic parties across Europe, which also complicated Juncker's path to the top job

But Juncker's detractors have failed to come up with a viable alternative.

Names floated included Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief, who rejected the idea; and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, famed for her selfie with U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service last December.

But no-one emerged as a strong enough candidate to challenge Juncker and his high-powered backers.

The newly elected European Parliament will hold a formal vote on Juncker when it meets next week.

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