Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union’s powerful executive Commission, said he would not seek a second term when his tenure expires in 2019. “It was a fine election campaign” in 2014, Juncker told Deutschlandfunk radio, according to extracts of an interview that will be broadcast on Sunday. “But there won’t be a second one, because I won’t be putting myself forward as a candidate for a second time.” He also admitted to fearing that Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union could open up splits in the bloc. “The British are going to succeed, without too much difficulty, to divide the 27 other EU countries,” he said. “The British know very well how to achieve this,” he added. “You promise one thing to state A, another to state B and something else to state C and you end up with no united European front.”
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Germany’s influential Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that European leaders may commit to a union of “different speeds” when they make a major declaration on its future at a summit in Rome next month.
Juncker, 62, a conservative former prime minister of Luxembourg, took office on November 1 2014 after a long spell at the helm of the Eurogroup, gathering ministers of countries which share the euro. Presidents of the Commission are appointed for a five-year term, which is renewable once.
The post is elected by the European Parliament, on a proposal by the European Council, which comprises heads of state or government. Juncker was chosen despite fierce objections by Britain, which regarded him as too federalist.
In other comments, Juncker urged the 27 EU countries –the entire bloc minus Britain, which wants to leave — to face its challenges with strength and unity, but admitted to “serious doubts” that its members shared the same goals.
“Has the time come for when the European Union of the 27 must show unity, cohesion and coherence?” he asked. “Yes, I say yes, when it comes to Brexit and (US President Donald) Trump… but I have some justified doubts that it will really happen.”