US faces post-election leadership vacuum in EU

(By Deutsche Welle) As the dust settles from the EU elections, member states are bartering over who should lead the supranational bloc’s executive body. There’s concern in the US that division in Brussels could create a leadership vacuum.

Long before last month’s EU parliamentary elections, the bloc’s 28 member states had agreed that they would take the outcome of the popular vote into consideration when nominating the next European Commission president.

But the candidate from the leading European People’s Party, Jean-Claude Juncker, has proven divisive among the EU’s national leaders. British Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly warned his continental counterparts that Juncker, a committed European federalist, would undermine already waning public support for EU membership in the euro-skeptic UK. Finland, France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden have also reportedly expressed reservations about Juncker.

“The US very clearly favors the UK obvously remaining within the European Union and being a productive member,” Erik Brattberg, an analyst with the Atlantic Council, told DW.

“It views a strong European Union as a better partner to deal with, both bilateraly but also in terms of the European Union’s ability to have a strong and united foreign policy,” he said. “Anything that pushes the UK away from the European Union, from a Washington perspective, would be a bad thing.”

At the earliest, the member states will nominate and the European Parliament will confirm the next commission president by the end of July. But given the EU’s internal divisions over Juncker, the process of political horse-trading could drag on into the fall, leaving a leadership vacuum in Brussels for much of the rest of the year.

“[… ]Especially at this pivotal moment in the EU’s relationship with Russia and regarding Ukraine, there’s a risk that this uncertainty will put a hamper on transatlantic relations […],” said Brattberg, who also works with the Center on Transatlantic Relations at John Hopkins University.

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