A German press report says British PM David Cameron has warned that his country could leave the EU if Jean-Claude Juncker wins the bloc's top job. Juncker remains optimistic about his chances.
The report by German news magazine Der Spiegel cited EU sources who quoted Cameron (seen left above) as saying that if Juncker became president of the European Commission, it would destabilize his government to such an extent that a planned referendum on EU membership would have to be brought forward.
The sources had understood Cameron as meaning that the odds of a vote in favor of Britain leaving the EU would then increase if Juncker was chosen, the magazine said.
Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU by the end of 2017 if his government is re-elected in a 2015 general election.
On Monday he rejected calls for bringing the referendum forward after his Conservative party was beaten in European elections by the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the main opposition Labour Party.
Cameron is reported to have made his comments on a possible EU exit on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday in front of several European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel on Friday reconfirmed her support for Juncker after long reticence on the subject.
Both Merkel and Juncker's parties are members of the center-right European People's Party (EPP), which gained the most seats in last week's European Parliament poll.
Cameron's Conservatives left the EPP in 2009. The British premier opposes Juncker as commission president, regarding him as too federalist. He has called instead for a reformist candidate.
"A face of the 1980s will not be able to solve the problems of the next five years," Spiegel quoted Cameron as saying.
Juncker remains hopeful
But in an interview with Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper, ex-Luxembourg premier Juncker said he was backed by a majority of leaders , and urged heads of government not to yield to the pressure of a minority in their decision.
"Europe must not allow itself to be blackmailed," Juncker said, adding that he was "optimistic about being chosen as the next Commission president by mid-July."
The Bild am Sonntag paper reported that French President Francois Hollande is among those who oppose Juncker receiving the position.
Without naming sources, the paper said Hollande wanted a French person to take the job, and, in talks with Merkel, had suggested his former finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, for the job.
tj/hc (Reuters, dpa)