Prime Minister Cameron is the foremost among Europe’s leaders who are zealous to guard the sovereignty of individual countries, even at the expense of ever-closer integration into the union.

Britain’s conciliatory tone after the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission gives reason for hope that the country’s road map for the future may be one that will involve reform from within, rather than exit from, the European Union. It was feared that if a vote was forced on the nomination of the former Luxembourg Prime Minister to the position, London’s further isolation in the bloc of 28 countries would strengthen the Eurosceptic parties into exerting pressure on the government. In the event, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s response to the 26-2 vote has been sober, although he described the latest development as unfortunate for Europe. For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would work to limit the fallout of the unprecedented election. There were clear indications of her reaching out even before the June 27 summit as the outcome of the vote and its implications for Britain were evident ever since London’s traditional allies decided to back Mr. Juncker’s nomination. London’s real objections in the months-long controversy on the issue pertained in the main to the authority of the European Parliament to appoint the president of the European Commission, the EU’s most important decision-maker. That power had hitherto remained a prerogative of the Council of Europe, the body made up of the elected heads of government of the 28 states. Clearly, the question of the competencies of national legislatures vis-à-vis the bloc’s Parliament may be expected to remain a delicate matter.

Prime Minister Cameron is the foremost among Europe’s leaders who are zealous to guard the sovereignty of individual countries, even at the expense of the process of ever-closer integration into the union. Indeed, the repatriation of more powers to national capitals, which has underpinned Britain’s EU policy under Mr. Cameron’s leadership of the current Conservative Libdem coalition, goes back a few decades to the era of Margaret Thatcher. His endorsement for the top job of a nominee of the European People’s Party, the largest single group in the recently elected legislature, would have amounted to undermining precisely such a position and alienating his more Eurosceptic party back-benchers. Mr. Juncker brings to bear his considerable experience to the EU’s top job, having led the powerful group of eurozone Finance Ministers for over a decade and influenced many a fractious negotiation, especially the Eurozone bailouts following the banking and credit crises. His sense of pragmatism could well equip him with the required sagacity and statesmanship to allow the bloc to balance its lofty objectives for the long term with the imperatives of the present.

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