In the 1980’s L’Heure de vérité was an important political television show on French public TV on Sunday mornings. Politicians were often given a grilling. Unfortunately, the journalists liked to invite provocative politicians like Le Pen senior who became the most frequent guest, giving him a major public platform. It paved the way for him to enter the political landscape, usurping the political sphere.
Next week the new Commissioners will also face a public grilling, by the European Parliament, but this is much more than a political game and media event. It will reveal where the future Commissioners intend to set their priorities and whether they are able to develop own ideas beyond the famous mission letter which frames their action.
Astonishingly a German Commission President-elect has again put in place a hierarchy which is essentially French in style, with Vice-Presidents and Commissioners placed under their control. It is a model that believes in control mechanisms, ignoring that too much control means loss of control.
We very much hope the progressive Commissioners can act freely and that their determination to make a difference for a real change is more than window dressing. It is a chance for the former Spitzenkandidat to show that he is really “Spitze”, meaning leading.
Some Commissioners will face tricky questions concerning their political allies and ethical questions, notably proof of good governance in their former jobs. Regardless of the political families, what counts here will be credibility.
The far right is not beaten yet and although they are completely corrupt, they always try to whitewash their deeds. Only they will benefit if doubts remain and if the equality of the rule of democratic law is not guaranteed.
Many NGOs and Civil Society Organisations have also tabled questions, including SOLIDAR. In these times of shrinking civic space and of a shrinking trust in democracy the litmus test will be L’heure de la vérité.