The big problem of the European Union is that it cannot make up its mind regarding WHAT it wants to be: a supranational state (federative or confederative) or a simple organization interested in cooperation. Ask any three people and you get five opinions.
That institutional paradox will lead to its demise.
Present day European institutions are difficult to compare with the prevailing traditional democratic institutions of nation states. From this point of view, the European Union is more similar to a Jackson Pollock painting than to a Da Vinci.
In other words: it is a mess!
Among the EU institutions, the Commission has the most active role, and the president of the Commission is the person with the European mandate.
But why does the EU need two leaders anyway, when one would suffice?
The next European Parliament elections will take place in 2019. The parliamentary majority will get to decide, through direct popular vote who will be the next president of the Commission.
The mechanism, however, is not that simple.
This spring, the proposal, supported especially by Germany, maintaining that the party lists should contain a so-called spitzenkandidat, who should be that party’s nominee for the European Commission position, got rejected.
At least in 2019, the President will be appointed, as it has been until now, according to negotiations in the European Council of 27 member states The Parliament will therefore vote on a candidate resulting from a “small deal” between EU heads of government.
The betting agencies have already opened their doors. Please note, this is not a democratic process but horse-trading among the power brokers.
It is interesting that Germany has had only one president of the European Commission, Walter Hallstein, who was the first president ever, in 1957.
In Berlin political circles, it is believed that the next president of the Commission must be German.
Germany runs Europe and they want the brass ring.
The first name put forward was that of Peter Altmaier, the Minister of Finance from Mrs. Merkel’s new cabinet. Later on, the current leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, was considered a better candidate and, recently, Merkel officially endorsed him as the spitzenkandidat, even though he has no prime ministerial experience.
The German Chancellor did not say that Weber would be the candidate that she will support within the European Council. In other words, Merkel kept room for maneuver.
If we look at the Commission’s presidents over the past 15 years, we see that they emerged from a compromise within the Council rather than as representatives of a strong nation.
Beyond their personal qualities, Juncker and Barroso were not backed by a strong state, and Prodi lacked the support of the most important European party. If we look at things this way, the entire history of the EU in the past 20 plus years is a series of compromises made in order to maintain an apparent balance. It is decidedly not a united states of anything.
Sovereignty is nowadays reappearing as the most critical trend in European politics and this will affect the 2019 elections as populist and nationalist parties take more and more seats.
Brexit was the trigger that has ruined this balance. Perhaps the Brits were not always the most involved in the European integration, but they were certainly the factor that balanced the arch competition between France and Germany. Therefore, now it is no surprise that the other candidate with real chances at the Commission’s presidency is the Frenchman, Michel Barnier, a tough negotiator of some acclaim who is ardently Europhile.
It could be France Vs. Germany, again.
Brexit did not generate a crisis just in the relations between the United Kingdom and the rest of the Union.
Brexit stimulated closing the ranks among the Visegrád Group and placed European political correctness mantras under a question mark.
Brexit will also open a risky perspective of a Franco-German competition regarding the very future of the Union. The hyperactive President Emmanuel Macron also forecasted this competition.
He now wants to have his way.
The golden years of the European Union, if there were any, were those of compromise, dialogue, and balance as in the Treaty of Rome.
If the European Union wants to stay united, coherent, and strong, then it must strategically avoid any type of division: between rich and poor, large and small, West and East.
It must also respect sovereign nations and not become a supranational cause celebrity. There is little appetite for that any longer in most capitals.
If you ask me, I believe the future president of the European Commission should come from an Eastern state and from the right of the political spectrum.
Only then will we witness a rebalancing of the European project with the right ambitions and focused on economic cooperation, not political control and dominance.