European Union leaders have nominated Jean-Claude Juncker for European Commission president by an overwhelming majority over the fierce objections of David Cameron, UK prime minister, who has called it “a bad day for Europe”.
Cameron forced an unprecedented vote on Friday at an EU summit to dramatise his opposition both to the way Juncker, a former Luxembourg prime minister, was chosen and to his suitability for the most powerful EU job.
Cameron warned it could influence British voters’ eventual decision on whether to leave the EU.
Juncker, 59, a veteran deal broker at EU summits for more than two decades, will now go before the European Parliament for a confirmation vote on July 16, where he is likely to win a majority of centre-right and centre-left legislators.
Herman Van Rompuy, European Council president, said via Twitter that the leaders had designated Juncker for the top post but gave no details of the procedure.
A British official said all leaders had given their views and the vote was 26-2 for Juncker, with only Viktor Orban, Hungarian prime minister, joining Cameron in voting “no”.
“I’ve told EU leaders they could live to regret the new process for choosing the Commission president,” Cameron said on Twitter from inside the meeting. “I’ll always stand up for UK interests.”
Camera has said the nomination was the result of a power grab by the European Parliament and that Juncker, seen by the UK government as an old-fashioned federalist bent on taking power from nation states, lacked the will and the skills to reform the EU, warning of unspecified “consequences”.
Cameron, who is under pressure from a surge in anti-Europe sentiment at home, stopped short of threatening to campaign for a “No” vote in a referendum on EU membership that he has promised to hold in 2017 if he is re-elected next year.
But a British official said he reminded leaders that support for staying in the EU was “wafer thin” despite a recent uptick in numbers who say they want the country to remain.
The dispute was one of the most public and personal the EU has experienced in a decade, damaging efforts to present a united front at a time when the bloc is recovering from an economic crisis and keen to bolster its global image.
Juncker was the leading candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party, which won the most votes in the European Parliament elections last month.
The Dutch and Swedish leaders, who agreed with Britain’s concerns on the process, backed Juncker in the end, as did the bloc’s most powerful figure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.