Though I am a fairly young and newly elected member of the European Parliament, I didn’t arrive with naive ideas about the legislative work, negotiations and politics. I was prepared to compromise, re-think and prioritize – as long as it was in line with my values. Yet it has still been hard to watch one of the first political steps involving the Parliament: the Council wiping its… with the Spitzenkandidat system and consequently with the Parliament. Whoever Ursula von der Leyen is and how well she will do – none of that mattered during the narrow vote for me. Not in the light of the fact that she found out she is going to be the single most important political person in the EU a week before the election; without ever aspiring to it. It perplexes me even now how few people (in power) were perplexed.
But that is the balance of the system, I told myself. The Council chooses the President, however with the Commissioners we will have a much stronger word. And so the hearings began. And I couldn’t be more wrong.
Let me ask you something: you are an employer and you are in a dire need to fill one position in your team, a crucial one. But only one candidate applies. The candidate is average, answers you properly half of the questions during the interview and has only some experience for the position. Would you hire him/her? Well, you desperately need someone, so yeah, it’s better than nothing. Will he/she perform well? Maybe, maybe not, you will see after some time. Would it be better to have more candidates from which to choose? Of course!
A choice from one option is not a choice. Otherwise you are led to compromise – only not with the candidate, but with yourself. I’ve even heard an argument about one of the candidates: “Yes, he’s below average, didn’t answer my question and we disagree with him on XY. But he agrees with us on Z, so let’s take him, because we might get next time someone who disagrees on Z too.”
But it gets worse. Let’s use the example from above and change one small detail – when you made the call for employees, you didn’t say to which position. It depends on the former employer to agree with you what will the person do. In most cases the candidates are pre-chosen, regardless of the portfolio the country gets; and often used to have a different portfolio overall, so can’t even continue in their work. How is this combination of one option, nominated by one government with its own interests, and no clue about the topic supposed to produce an experienced, quality, dedicated candidate?
So here we are. With a President of the Commission chosen by national governments; and a Commission chosen by national governments. Where is the balance of power they taught me at school? It’s of course legitimate to say the EU is not yet a federation and so, regardless of nice words about the Parliament’s power, it’s still heavily tilted towards the national states. However what I can’t just overlook is the rigged system not producing as much experts as rather loyal extensions of the governments’ power. And while I honor the existing exceptions that can be seen now and then in Commissioner-designates, I can’t approve people selected like this as the most important people in the European Union.