BERLIN, June 2 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday the United Kingdom belongs in the European Union, despite its threats to leave the organization over potential leadership.
Merkel told EU leaders she would side with British Prime Minister David Cameron and form a "blocking minority" -- with Britain, Sweden, Hungary, and the Netherlands in the 28-member economic organization -- to keep Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker from his bid to become EU president.
However, a spokesman for Merkel, Steffen Siebert, said she would support Juncker, and described Britain as a "sometimes difficult partner (in the EU)." Siebert also noted "the German government is not indifferent about Great Britain remaining in the EU."
Cameron has described Juncker as "a face from the eighties who cannot solve the problems of the next five years," and opposes Juncker's expected appointment as president. The German magazine Der Spiegel said Sunday Cameron told EU leaders Britain might leave the group if Juncker becomes its leader for a five-year term.
Merkel has come under increasing pressure to support Juncker in light of last week's European Parliament elections, which saw the rise of right-wing and fringe parties in the body, notably in France and Britain, as well of voter approval of Juncker as Parliament president.
German politicians are angry at what they perceive is Cameron's undermining of Europe's democratic principles. Thomas Oppermann of the Social Democrat Party called it absurd that Germany was still debating whether Juncker should get the presidency. His conservative counterpart, Hans-Peter Uhl, said, "If the British want to leave the EU then please, go ahead! It would damage the EU but it would damage Britain even more."