The European Council has taken the decision to nominate Ursula von der Leyen as new Commission President, Charles Michel as President of the Council, Christine Lagarde as ECB chair and Josep Borrel as successor of Federica Mogherini. 10 years ago we belonged to those who thought that with the leading candidates principle (Spitzenkandidat) a first step forward was taken to democratise the European institutions and bringing the institutions closer to citizens’ vote at the European elections. The last elections have seen an increase in participation, definitely boosted also by the commitment of Civil Society Organisations in the campaign #ThistimeIamvoting, in which we proudly participated.
Yet, the higher turnout was just turned down by the Council, that ignores the leading candidate principle and negotiate a deal behind doors. A bad deal! Because none of the candidates, except Josep Borrell, has any legitimacy and has ever engaged in European affairs. A bad deal because eventually most of it was decided by Macron, who managed to get the nomination of 3 liberals. Even if Ursula von der Leyen is conservative, on economic and social affairs she is a liberal. She repeatedly stated, for instance in the WEC Forum on Europe in Milan in autumn 2017 that social policies should remain an exclusive competence of the member states. She stated that only if economic growth is achieved there can be investments in social infrastructures. We sadly know what to expect for the future of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Sustainability agenda. Furthermore, her political career has been marked by a series of scandals in her role as Minister of Defense in Germany, although she did create jobs…for Mc Kinsey consultants. And she administered an army that has no guns to shoot, no munitions, no planes and other failures because of the incapacity at its highest level.
The European Parliament must represent citizens’ voices and respect their vote, thus it must vote against this nomination. Or it shouldn’t be any longer considered the most democratic institution of the EU.
It is a bad deal because Charles Michel is compensated by a top job. The one who has opened the doors in Belgium government to the Flemish nationalists, who has pursued a liberal policy for the so-called “tax shift” benefitting only the rich and detrimental to the many, also because it increased the national deficit.
And Lagarde? Well known persona, not always for good. She is one more liberal, whose first top job was with Sarkozy.
The Council sends bad signals as the few Visegrad countries seem to have more influence than many others, including the social-democratic heads of state. Not a surprise that they vetoed against Weber and Timmermans - the Visegrad impose their rule at a time when ignoring the fundamental rule of Law and European values. And Frans Timmermans acted on behalf of the European Commission! Forgotten?
Shall we be at least satisfied because two women were designated? Power distribution should be way better balanced between women and men, but it is not a matter of gender equality only. It is a matter of priorities and workplan and the team proposed by the Council is set to work for anything but sustainability, anything but a social agenda. This is a team set to implement neo-liberal policies. Shall we be satisfied that the Franco-German couple has finally worked? The same answer: it should be mainly about the policies and their agreement - which is opposed by the German coalition partner SPD - is not a breakthrough for Europe.
Today the EP is voting its new President, and it may be Green. Hopefully not at the price of acknowledging the bad deal.
How to convince critical citizens that this EU is not a neo-liberal project? Have we been naïve to support the efforts to get people to vote for such a bad deal? Civil Society Organisations are often reduced to advocacy and lobby organisations but we are the pulse of society. The EUCO deal was the worst case scenario, encouraging even more people to turn away from the European project.
We count on the Progressives in the European Parliament to stand against this bad deal. It is about an important value at tiles when democracy is questioned: it is about credibility!