New EU leader picked despite British opposition

European Union leaders have chosen former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker to become the 28-nation bloc`s new chief executive, according to a top official.

AP Last Updated: Jun 27, 2014, 21:12 PM IST

Brussels: European Union leaders have chosen former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker to become the 28-nation bloc`s new chief executive, according to a top official.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said today in a Twitter message that leaders nominated Juncker as the next President of the European Commission, the bloc`s powerful executive arm.

Juncker`s nomination is breaking with a decades-old tradition of choosing the Commission president by consensus because Britain opposed him.

Juncker still needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament before starting his term later in the year, taking over from Jose Manuel Barroso.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier today that he would vote against Juncker because he views the 59-year-old as the embodiment of a pro-integration, consensus-favoring, empire-building Brussels clique that would not return power to member nations.

"There are times when it`s very important to stick to principles, even if the odds are stacked against you, rather than go along with something that you believe is profoundly wrong," Cameron said.

Some EU leaders sought to appease Britain because the move to appoint Juncker threatens to further alienate the increasingly euroskeptic nation that many fear could even choose to leave the bloc of 500 million people.

"I very much hope that after today we can get back on track where the United Kingdom is an important partner and an influential partner in the European Union," Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said at the outset of the Brussels summit.

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb insisted Britain is an important partner pushing for reforms and a more open economy, but warned that a nation that ships half of its exports to EU nations shouldn`t lightly flirt with leaving the bloc.

"I think in the United Kingdom some people obviously need to wake up and smell the coffee: the European Union is a very good thing for the United Kingdom," he said.

Juncker led Luxembourg, a tiny nation of some 500,000 people for almost two decades. He also played a crucial role in shaping the euro currency, and led the group of finance ministers governing the 18-nation currency through the financial crisis that threatened the euro`s very survival.