Let's be rid of all these European presidents

18 February 2019

Let's be rid of all these European presidents

In the US they have only one President and they're having enough misery inflicted on them by him, but in the European Union we have at least three, which is even worse. Now the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani is once again the talk of the town after appearing to suggest that Slovenia and Croatia should really be part of Italy. Prior to that the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, wished upon the Brexiteers a special place in Hell, while at the EP Budgetary Control Committee, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker found it politic not to discuss budgetary accountability. That's for mere officials. How good it would be if we in the EU could simply work together, cooperating without all of these ambitious Chairpersons – because in reality that's all they are – seeking to flex their muscles.

On 10th February, Tajani gave a speech in Trieste at the commemoration of the brave Italian soldiers killed by resistance fighters – the Yugoslav partisans - between 1943 and 1947. That's weird enough, but it became that much worse when he spoke about the Italian Istria and Dalmatia, which are no longer Italian but regions of Croatia and a small area of Slovenia. No wonder that strong reactions were heard from the member states, or that many MEPs saw Tajani's remarks as sufficient reason to call for his resignation. But in Trieste, where the extreme right has always had a lot of support, the speech will have gone down very well indeed.

Tusk's comments were scarcely more tactful, when he said that he had had more than enough of the negotiations with the British and that he wished on the Brexiteers “a special place in Hell”. Nobody wants to see a chaotic Brexit, but every negotiator knows that the last thing you should do is throw oil on the fire. In such sensitive negotiations, you have to proceed with caution. But Tusk evidently found it important to show how strong he is, given that he chairs the European Council. Finally there's the European Commission: after all the discussions on whether or not the Commission is a political body, we heard in the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament that statistical details are beneath his dignity. We need instead to go through these with the Directors General. European Commissioners are only 'politically' responsible. For the SP, however, the Commission is clearly an administrative body, Juncker is chair of a college of top officials, and the less 'politically' they act the better. And as senior officials they should be answerable down to the very last cent.

The EU is no nation. We don't need even one President, let alone three. Real cooperation would mean that member states would tackle together matters with regard to which they had common or where transfrontier issues can better be addressed by working together. If ministers ad heads of government could be held in check by their national parliaments, such cooperation would be able to count on support amongst the population. But with wild statements from all these Presidents, the gulf with ordinary people simply becomes greater. So let's see the back of them.

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