The New Age dawns in the EU

Posted by Thersites on  UTC 2019-09-14 14:03

In the governments of the mature democracies, the business of the government is divided up between ministries in accordance with some traditional pattern. This pattern survives all changes of personnel and of ruling party, at least in its core appointments. Ministries are expected to persist independently of their changing incumbents.

Of course, political exigencies may demand some cosmetic appointments on the fringes of the government – 'Minister for Social Media' or some such – but on the whole governments stay, ministers change. After each election the media watches while existing posts are filled with both the new and the drearily familiar faces.

The appointments to her future Commission just made by the President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, say a lot about the singularity of the European Union. They are quite bizarre, not just in terms of the people chosen – we expect that from the EU – but in terms of the tasks these people have been given.

It firstly came as an embarrassing surprise to find out that the Commissioner has autocratic powers to structure her commission and assign tasks to its members in whatever way she likes. In the good old days of the EU, each member state sent a Commissioner to Brussels and tasks were apportioned accordingly. Some Commissioners were more equal than others, but that is only to be expected. But in the end, even those who smiled on the nascent superstate began to realise that this principle of 27 or so nominal equals was unworkable.

Under von der Leyen an arbitrary change has been autocratically imposed: she has appointed eight 'Vice Presidents', who will run departments which encompass other Commissioners. Three of these Vice Presidents are 'Executive Vice Presidents' with more generic responsibilities and broader scope – the Holy Trinity, in other words.

One more surprise comes immediately: the person responsible for the EU's budget, the Austrian, Johannes Hahn, is not only not one of the Executive Vice Presidents, but he is not even one of the eight Vice Presidents. The role that is considered to be one of the great offices of state in many other governments, managing the finances and budget, is considered in the EU as an accessory.

On reflection though, the creative budgeting of the EU means that it is never short of money and the administration of its budgetary disciple can be safely left in the hands of an underling.

Yet another surprise: the Spaniard who will occupy that other traditional office of state, Foreign Secretary, the 'High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy' in EU-speak, at least gets to be one of the eight Vice Presidents – slightly important, but not much. He can't be any worse than his predecessor Federica 'Lord Lundy' Mogherini.

Having handed the traditionally key tasks of government to a couple of relative underlings, von der Leyen is now free to indulge in the fantasies that make up her image of the future.

We must remind readers at this point that she is still undergoing investigation in Germany for the outrageous amount of money she spent in obscure ways on advisors on all kinds of fantasies during her mercifully short period as Defence Minister. Despite all this advice, the one thing she didn't manage to do was to put an army that had become a joke back into good order. The Bundeswehr and its rotund generals are now a German joke that is really no laughing matter at all.

In her past political career she has shown a marked tendency to autocratic decision making, which probably suits her perfectly for her new post. Her career in German politics peaked long ago, so the time had come to shuffle her off somewhere else. That somewhere else turned out to be the European Union.

The tasks she has distributed between her new commissioners display the image of the future that is currently occupying von der Leyen's brain. It is an image of social engineering and control:

The Vice-Presidents … will steer our work on the most important overarching issues, such as the European Green Deal, a Europe fit for the digital age, an economy that works for people, protecting our European way of life, a stronger Europe in the world and a new push for European democracy.

Press release 10 September 2019 Brussels The von der Leyen Commission: for a Union that strives for more.

The three members of the Holy Trinity are Frans Timmermans (Netherlands), 'European Green Deal'; Margrethe Vestager (Denmark), 'Europe fit for the digital age'; and Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia), 'Economy that Works for People'.

We recently considered Timmermanns' appointment. Vestager is known for her campaign against US tech giants, Dombrovskis is tasked with encouraging 'green investment'. His politics are allegedly centre-right, but we shall see how that works out in the socialist smog of the new European Commission. The sloganising in their titles tells us all we need to know about the EU's hang to social engineering.

The one office that surprised every commentator is, of course that for 'Protecting our European Way of Life', which is assigned to a Vice-President, no less, the Greek Margaritis Schinas. No one really knows what this job involves, whether it means defending Europe from the migrant hordes, or defending migrant Europe from the nationalist hordes, or defending Europe from the American hordes, or sponsoring arty movies that hardly anyone goes to see – only time will tell. The only certain thing is that a 'way of life' as a government concept brings us to a new low in authoritarian control.

Oh, nearly forgot. A Croatian lady has become one of the eight Vice Presidents and is charged with managing 'Democracy and Demography'. Which says it all, in fact, when we consider that no citizen anywhere voted for any of these people.

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