- POSTED: 27 Jun 2014 07:13
Europe's leaders sought to defuse a bitter quarrel with Britain's David Cameron as they gathered for an emotionally charged remembrance ceremony in Ypres, the scene of horrific carnage in World War I.
YPRES, Belgium: Europe's leaders sought to defuse a bitter quarrel with Britain's David Cameron as they gathered for an emotionally charged remembrance ceremony in Ypres, the scene of horrific carnage in World War I.
The spat makes for some awkward symbolism as Europe recalls past failures to keep the peace and marks 100 years since the start of the devastating conflict.
Germany's Angela Merkel urged her peers to compromise with Cameron as he heads for defeat in a row over who will be the European Union's next chief executive.
"I think we can find compromises here and make a step towards Great Britain," Merkel said. "I repeatedly spoke of a European spirit which is needed and which will help us to find good solutions."
Cameron's campaign against naming former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker to head the powerful European Commission goes to the wire on Friday when the bloc's 28 leaders put it to a vote which he had demanded.
"We'll see the outcome of that vote. But it's absolutely vital that people know with me you get what I say I'm going to do in Europe," Cameron told the BBC.
Cameron sees Juncker, who until last year was Europe's longest-serving leader, as a tired face and a federalist unlikely to promote reforms which could convince British voters to remain inside the EU in a referendum which could be held in 2017.
But Britain's aggressive approach -- including highly personal attacks in the UK press -- has alienated would-be allies such as Sweden and the Netherlands, and Juncker's appointment appears all but confirmed.
Keen to avoid any sign of friction at the Ypres ceremony, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy urged leaders to keep the Juncker dispute off the table during the 1914-1918 commemorations.
"This is not about the end of the war, or any battle or victory," Van Rompuy said as Europe's leaders gathered around a memorial garden built on the city's fortifications to remember the war dead.
"It is about how it could start, about the mindless march to the abyss, about the sleepwalking. Above all about the millions who were killed on all sides."
Cameron had urged Van Rompuy to call a vote by EU leaders over Juncker's nomination, rather than take a decision by consensus in line with previous practice.
The Commission is the EU's executive arm, proposing legislation as well as policing the single market and overseeing national budgets.
The British leader told Van Rompuy this week that he also opposed the fact that Juncker was put forward by the European Parliament's conservative group -- the EPP -- which is still the largest group after May 25 elections but lost a sizeable number of seats.
"It is wrong to sign up to this power grab by the parties of Europe and the European Parliament," Cameron said.
Juncker's appointment is part of a package of top job changes as the EU moves into a new term following the May elections that saw huge gains for anti-EU parties in several countries.
Britain is thought to be more on board with the appointment of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the young Dutch premier who is set to replace Van Rompuy when he steps down as Council president in November.
The remaining appointments may be discussed at yet another summit to be held, probably on July 17.
Centre-left powers France and Italy are supporting Juncker but demanding greaters efforts to boost economic growth and job creation over the next five years.
Italy's popular young premier Matteo Renzi, who increasingly is taking the lead on the left from French President Francois Hollande, made his support for Juncker conditional on a softening in the German-inspired austerity policies that Brussels has adopted in recent years to tame the eurozone debt crisis.