Juncker will not seek second term as European Commission President

Jean-Claude Juncker confirms he will not seek a second mandate, warns that Brexit risks driving the other 27 EU countries against each other 

12 February 2017, 6:00pm
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed that he will step down in 2019
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed that he will step down in 2019
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has confirmed that he will step down once his current term ends in 2019.

In an interview with German radio station Deutschlandfunk, Juncker said he had had a “fine election campaign” in 2014, “but there won’t be a second one, because I won’t be putting myself forward as a candidate for a second time”.

Juncker said he had wanted to give people hope in Europe again, but that he was now too busy with Brexit, which he called a “continental tragedy”.

He said he feared that Brexit will drive the remaining 27 EU countries against each other “without much effort”.

“The other 27 don’t know it yet but the British know very well how they’ll manage it. You promise country A one thing, country B one thing and country C another and at the end there’s no European front left,” Juncker said.

“Do the Hungarians or the Poles want exactly the same thing as the Germans or the French? I have huge doubts. You have to create a fundamental consensus again. That’s a job for the next two or three years.

“While we’re negotiating with the British, we have to agree on the definitive visions for this continent if we want to avoid an apocalyptic mood,” Juncker said.

Juncker also insisted that US President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policy could create “big opportunities” for the EU to agree new trade deals with countries outside the bloc.

“And we actually should not allow the British to act now already like they can sign their own trade agreements with other countries, because they are not allowed to. As long as the UK is a member of the European Union, its foreign trade policy is a competence of the European Union – and therefore the Commission.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited Washington last month to lay the groundwork for a new, post-Brexit trade agreement with the US, and has also courted other countries for potential deals.

The European Commission president is elected by the European Parliament. Juncker was the first leader of the executive to be elected under the new “Spitzenkandidat” system, which allowed every political group represented in the European Parliament to put forward a candidate for the post.