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EU Parliament pushes Juncker's 'right' to be Commission head

The main political groups in the European Parliament on Thursday backed the "democratic" right of Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next head of the European Commission, in the face of fierce opposition from Britain.

BRUSSELS: The main political groups in the European Parliament on Thursday backed the "democratic" right of Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next head of the European Commission, in the face of fierce opposition from Britain.

"There is growing support for Juncker at all levels," said Manfred Weber, head of the European People's Party which named the former Luxembourg premier as its candidate for the Commission post ahead of last month's parliament elections.

"We have a very clear message" for the European Union's leaders, Weber said. "If they choose another option, then there will be a constitutional crisis."

The EPP lost many seats in last month's polls as anti-EU and radical parties made sharp inroads against the mainstream parties but it remains the largest single group in the new assembly.

On that basis, Juncker is first up for consideration.

The other main groups -- the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and radical left -- all named candidates, based on new rules which require EU leaders to "take into account" the outcome of the popular vote when making their choice.

Previously, EU leaders settled the issue among themselves and many are still reluctant to allow Parliament a say in a key appointment for fear of setting an unwanted precedent.

All five groups insist that the replacement for current Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso must be one their candidates, warning that to ignore them would only do more damage to the EU's already tenuous democratic credibility.

"We do not want to wind up in a conflict but the only possible majority in Parliament" backs Juncker, Weber said after talks with Herman Van Rompuy, who as head of the European Council represents EU leaders.

Hannes Swoboda, head of the Socialist group, said that "out of respect for the basic democratic principles," EU leaders should respect the election outcome and allow Juncker to make his case for the Commission job.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is openly hostile to Juncker, seeing in him a dyed-in-the-wool European federalist who will not adopt the reforms London says are needed to put the 28-member bloc back on track.

But Weber said Britain is "only one country among 28 and there is no right of veto" on naming the next Commission head.

He also condemned as "unacceptable... the orchestrated campaign of defamation" against Juncker after reports of harassment by British tabloids of members of his family in Luxembourg who had called the police to complain.

EU leaders hold a summit June 26-27 with the Commission job top of the agenda.

Their choice, Juncker or not, is then supposed to go to Parliament for approval by mid-July.

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