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European Union

Germany's Chancellor Merkel stands firm on Juncker nomination

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has restated her support for Jean-Claude Juncker to become European Commission president after meeting EU leaders. She insisted, however, that the topic did not dominate talks.

The German chancellor reiterated her support for Juncker on Tuesday during a joint press conference with the leaders of Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands at the end of a two-day informal summit at Harpsund, south of the Swedish capital Stockholm.

"I have said that for me Jean-Claude Juncker is the candidate for the office of Commission president and that I want to have him as the Commission president," Merkel said.

However, she emphasized that "staff decision" was not the main topic discussed between herself, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Juncker is a former prime minister of Luxembourg and lead candidate of the center-right European People's Party (EPP). He hopes to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso after the EPP won the most seats in last month's European Parliament elections.

One of the most outspoken leaders against Juncker's nomination has been Britain's Cameron who has said someone more open to reforming the bloc and reducing the powers of Brussels should be picked for the presidency.

On Tuesday, he told reporters, "I want Britain to stay in a reformed European Union, that is my goal, that is what I think is best for Britain and I think is best for Europe as well," he said without mentioning Juncker by name.

If re-elected next year, Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union.

Reinfeldt and Rutte have taken no clear public position for or against Juncker, saying that the policy agenda for the next Commission had to be agreed first.

Topics on the official agenda for the talks included structural reforms to increase competitiveness within the bloc, how to strengthen the euro and ways to increase free trade.

hc/dr (Reuters, AFP)

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