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Should we be bothered about who succeeds Juncker?

23 September 2018

Should we be bothered about who succeeds Juncker?

Last week was loud with the buzz of rumours. Would the Dutch Commissioner Frans Timmermans put himself forward as the leading candidate of the centre-left for the position of president of the European Commission? On the centre-right side, would it be the German Manfred Weber, the Frenchman in charge of negotiating Brexit, Michel Barnier, or even the Slovak Maroš Šefčovič? And does it really matter? The SP has never seen any value in this system. It's not after all about electing a president of the United States of Europe, but merely a top official. And yet the propaganda circus is once again running at full speed.

On 23rd May 2019 we will once again be holding European elections in the Netherlands, and new MEPs will be elected. You'd hope that this would result in the election of men and women who have a close relationship with the people in their country. Few people are aware that there are now also European political parties. You don't hear about these so much, even though every year they're handed a fair amount of taxpayers' money, as they're largely financed from the EU budget. But when the elections come around they spring into life and debates break out over who will be their candidates for president of the Commission.

That entire idea is enormously flawed. Say that you want to vote for Barnier: you can only do that where he is standing, in France. So the europhiles say, let's have European lists, so it doesn't matter where you live, you can vote for all of the 'European' candidates. And all of this so that you can elect the top official who is then obliged to do what the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament agree that he or she should do. It only becomes credible if you want to upgrade the position currently occupied by Juncker to to a President and the Commission to a government. But most people don't favour that, preferring to keep the power as close to home as possible. As always happens, however, we're all being sucked into a European framework, expected to find it exciting to speculate about who will succeed Juncker. Let's keep our wits about us, though: as far as we're concerned the European Commission is and should remain a civil service body and the election of its top official would therefore be a farce.

What is indeed important is the election of new MEPs. Will there be enough people amongst them who find the links to their own electorate more important than the European bureaucracy. The EP is a long way from home, and most people could at best name just a handful of its members. The question of who will be Juncker's successor is of importance only to europhiles. For those who want to keep the power close to home, count on those you can trust not to forget who they represent. A really left European Parliament could move legislation in the right direction, and could ensure that its members get out of their luxurious workplace and maintain contact with their own supporters. Forget this nonsense about leading candidates and electing the Commission president, but rather look at which party counts when it comes to the interests of ordinary people. For the SP the choice isn't difficult.

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