JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker has blasted EU leaders over the backroom stitch-up that led to the appointment of his successor as Commission chief.
The outgoing Brussels boss said the process by which Ursula von der Leyen was chosen showed the bloc is going backwards in terms of openness.
In a shock outburst the 64-year-old arch-europhile implied the German defence minister would have less democratic legitimacy in the post than he did.
He fumed: “The process was not very transparent. But the process which led to my nomination in 2014 was very transparent.
“We had lead candidates and we knew what would happen if this party or that party would be the strongest party in the European Parliament.”
Mr Juncker was selected via the Spitzenkandidat system – German for lead candidate – which was meant to make the EU more democratic.
Under the process the pan-European parties nominate their pick to become Commission chief before voters cast their ballots in the EU elections.
But this time round a group of EU leaders led by Emmanuel Macron killed off the system and chose the next boss themselves at a marathon closed summit.
Me Juncker expressed dismay that he will now “enter history” as “the first and last Spitzenkandidat”.
German MEP Manfred Weber was earmarked for the top job as the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) lead candidate before being unceremoniously dumped.
Yesterday he said that leaders’ decision to axe the system had “damaged the democratic principles of Europe”.
He fumed: “This is not the Europe I imagined. I will continue to fight for the democratisation of the EU.”
Mrs von der Leyen is a controversial and unpopular figure in Germany, and her term as defence minister has been blighted by scandals and bungling.
A poll for TV station ARD showed just a third of voters there back the decision to parachute her into the presidency, with more than half opposed.
Separately, a Der Spiegel survey this week had her as the second least liked minister amongst ordinary Germans, with a dissatisfaction rating of 78 per cent.
Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice slammed her elevation to the top job in the face of minimal public scrutiny.
He said: “A failed defence minister has been booted upstairs to the EU by Germany, desperate to get rid of her incompetence and her cost.
“There has been no vote or scrutiny by MEPs on the most important of the five different EU presidents.”
Mrs von der Leyen’s appointment still has to be rubber-stamped by MEPs, who will vote on her candidacy on July 16.
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