(Removes extraneous word in headline)
* Juncker's record is pragmatic fixer, not ideologist
* UK's Cameron sees him as old-style opaque federalist
* Luxembourger brokered EU deals for two decades
* Juncker seen to the left of centre-right mainstream
By Luke Baker
BRUSSELS, June 13 Four months ago, Jean-Claude
Juncker would have struggled to have his name recognised in much
of Europe. Now he could be forgiven for wishing people would
shut up about him.
As the top candidate of Europe's largest centre-right
political group, which won the European elections last month,
the former prime minister of Luxembourg is in pole position to
become the next president of the European Commission.
While Britain's David Cameron is adamantly opposed and The
Sun tabloid has described him as "The Most Dangerous Man in
Europe", Juncker remains on track to secure the powerful post,
which has influence over policy from telecommunications to
banking and trade affecting 500 million Europeans.
Cameron's opposition is based on a belief that Juncker, 59,
is an "old-school federalist" wedded to the concept of "ever
closer union", not a modernizer who will shake up and refocus
Brussels institutions regarded in London as bloated and opaque.
After an election in which millions of Europeans voted for
far-right or protest parties, with resentment widespread over
immigration, unemployment and low growth, Cameron is determined
to force a rethink about how the Commission works.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and most EU leaders agree
that sharper priorities need to be set for the Commission, whose
25,000 civil servants have seen their responsibilities grow from
mostly economics, trade and agriculture into areas such as
culture and education, health and foreign affairs.
While Merkel has given resolute backing to Juncker, saying
he is the right person to lead the Commission for the next five
years and ensure it delivers on jobs, growth and prosperity,
Cameron takes the polar opposite view.
The question, then, is whether the heavy smoking deal broker
who got his first ministerial job at 29 is the best choice at a
time when Europe is battling to keep its economic recovery on
track, faces geopolitical tension with Russia and is confronting
rising social and political opposition to "more Europe".
And whether, as the 12th president of the Commission since
the post was established in 1958, Juncker would represent
continuity or a break with the past.
Unlike some of the EU's founding fathers, Juncker has never
set out his own doctrine of European integration.
The son of a Luxembourg steelworker who often says he would
never have been able to study law and get ahead if his father
had not had job security, Juncker stands somewhat to the left of
the EU's centre-right mainstream.
For example, he supports a minimum wage in all EU countries.
But his record is more that of a practical operator, making
the EU plumbing work by brokering crucial compromises between
Germany and France on economic and monetary union.
He negotiated the bloc's original budget rules in the 1997
Stability and Growth Pact and an amended rulebook in 2005 after
Berlin and Paris broke the deficit limits and froze the pact.
For most of the euro zone debt crisis - perhaps the biggest
challenge the EU has faced since its founding in the 1950s - he
was at the heart of decision-making.
As chairman of the euro zone's finance ministers and a prime
minister, he lead negotiations or sat in every critical meeting
from the first word of Greece's problems in 2009 to the
concluding decisions on banking union in 2013.
It was exhausting work and took a toll on his health.
Critics said his chairmanship was at times erratic and decisions
sometimes lacked follow-up.
His Dutch successor criticised his drinking and smoking in
meetings. Juncker denied any alcohol problem.
At the peak of the crisis in 2011, he grew frustrated with
the media attention, confessing he preferred "secret, dark
debates" to the bright lights of news conferences.
In an effort to stop leaks at one meeting of finance
officials in Luxembourg, a Grand Duchy of just 500,000 people
that he governed for 19 years until July 2013, Juncker warned
participants that their telephones could be monitored.
To some critics, his approach suggested a man concerned more
to do whatever it takes to get a deal than with the niceties of
openness and modern government.
Former staff members describe him as liking nothing more
than locking himself in his study to work the phones, and say he
only ever wants one or two trusted people around him.
"He's old-fashioned and a bit secretive in the way he
works," says one former adviser. "He doesn't even like the idea
of having a cabinet," he said, using the French term for a
private office staff. "It's not something he was to used in
By contrast, running the European Commission entails having
a team of up to 25 advisers to handle a host of policy
portfolios, not a one-man job. The president must also travel
widely and make several speeches a week, something Juncker is
loath to do unless he has penned them himself.
"He hates giving speeches he hasn't written," said the
former staffer. "There are a lot of things you are forced to do
as Commission president that are not really up his street."
Then there is the critical question of policy priorities.
In his manifesto, Juncker pushed all the right buttons,
talking about jobs, growth, energy diversification and trade, as
well as the need to further reform Europe's monetary union.
But when he outlined how he sees the relationship between
the Commission and the European Central Bank, and how he would
handle future financial rescues, he raised some warning flags.
In the fourth point of his five-point plan, he praised ECB
President Mario Draghi for helping save the euro, before adding
that the euro zone should be managed by the Commission, which
should also have a say in exchange-rate policy.
"The responsibility of the Eurogroup includes issues related
to the exchange rate. We should not forget this in case the euro
exchange rate should increase further and become a problem for
growth," the manifesto says.
The EU's governing treaty allows euro zone finance ministers
to set exchange rate policy guidelines for the central bank at
the Commission's recommendation, but in practice the euro has
floated freely since its creation and monetary policy is the
sole preserve of the ECB.
Juncker's position could be seen by some as unhealthy
meddling in free markets.
He also argued that future bailout programmes should go
through a "social impact assessment" not just a fiscal analysis.
That may cheer voters in Greece, Portugal and Spain who were
angered by austerity conditions attached to their bailouts. But
it pits Juncker against Merkel and others who argue it was right
to set strict terms for financial help.
The manifesto also talked of a "targeted fiscal capacity"
for the euro zone - a nod to some sort of shared budget or
fiscal transfers that Cameron and other north Europeans are
concerned would take Europe in the wrong direction.
"It's just not where we see Europe going," says a British
diplomat. "His philosophy is outdated. It's out of touch."
Juncker has in the past supported the idea of euro zone
bonds - the issuance of jointly guaranteed debt by euro zone
governments - an idea that Merkel strongly opposes. He backed
away from that during the campaign, saying conditions will not
be ripe in the next five years.
His commitment to the EU treaty goal of "ever closer union",
especially among the 18 countries that share the euro, worries
those outside the currency area as it could cement a two-tier
EU, exacerbating tensions between the "ins" and "outs".
OUT OF STEP?
While Juncker's principles may put him at odds with Cameron,
they are not out of step with past Commission presidents such as
France's Jacques Delors or Italy's Romano Prodi, who made the
case passionately for more Europe.
But after the existential crisis of the past four years and
last month's vote, Cameron and his allies argue there can be no
"business as usual". Another Commission president in the same
mould - the third from Luxembourg - is not the way to enact
change, they contend.
Added to that, Juncker clashed bitterly with Britain in 2005
over the EU budget, leaving resentment on both sides.
As a result, Cameron has made clear he will do what he can
to stop Juncker, and he may yet succeed.
Sweden, Hungary and the Netherlands largely agree that the
Luxembourger is not the right person to modernize the
Commission. If Italy were to lean Cameron's way, it might
convince Merkel that Juncker's candidacy is not going to work.
EU leaders will meet on June 26-27 to discuss the issue, but
it is unlikely to be resolved by then. Instead, it may not be
until September or October that the fate of Juncker, and with it
the future direction of the EU, is determined.
(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Paul Taylor)