Cronyism in the European Union

The European Union’s three top jobs were assigned prior to the vote of the European Council. It happened at a meeting of the leaders of Germany and France and the three traditional factions of the European Parliament: the European People’s Party, the Social Democrats and the so-called liberals (mainly French President Emmanuel Macron’s party).

This small, select clan of functionaries picked Ursula von der Leyen as the head of the European Commission, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa as the president of the European Council and Estonian Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas as the EU representative for foreign affairs.

The idea has been primarily to marginalize the winners of this year’s elections to the European Parliament, who have been labeled as right-wingers, and preserve the EU’s (and many of its members’) bureaucratic evolution toward technocratic centralization and harmonization. Unfortunately, the relentless pressure for centralization frustrates healthy integration.

European integration started as a great concept and a huge success. It was built on the strong foundations of subsidiarity and free markets, and government interventions in the economy were supposed to be limited.

That is not to say that the so-called right-wing movements in Europe offer better solutions and are all positive. However, trying to marginalize the newcomers is a terrible strategy. We saw the witch hunt against Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, who has shown a good record for Europe so far.

The healthy disruption

We had a comparable situation during the previous appointment round. Five years ago, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor at the time, and President Macron settled on Ms. von der Leyen to lead the commission and Christine Lagarde as head of the European Central Bank. The EU’s central bank was supposed to protect the value of the common currency and be politically independent. However, Ms. Lagarde, a French state operator with no monetary policy experience, was imposed on the institution.

The track record of European institutions under the command of these individuals is not impressive. Nor are the national governments shining: Germany, the largest economy, is a heartbreaking example.

Today’s electoral campaigns are mainly aimed against new players and ideas, not toward constructive programs and transparent politics. Political elites that are not up to the challenges tend to lean on power grabs, and Europe’s situation is no exception to this rule. Here lies the actual danger to democracy, freedom and prosperity. This cynical tactic is likely to fail.



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