Claire has written for UnHerd about her experiences in the European Parliament, looking in particular at the far-from-democratic process of choosing the European Commission.
While the UK Parliament was being prorogued, the European Union this week officially announced a troupe of new executive appointees to oversee us all. Appointed via the offices of the incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, these eight vice-presidents are responsible for implementing the president-elect’s policy priorities, and have a huge impact on the lives of millions. And none of them can do a thing about it.
Apparently, I – as an MEP – get a say on whether to endorse them, but it’s not exactly a free and fair election. There is no actual choice, for a start, just a chance to reject or query a pre-ordained list. With Britain not putting anyone forward (as we’re – allegedly – preparing to leave on October 31) and Germany denied choosing one as they already have Mrs von der Leyen, there are 26 new commissioners, each nominated by member states, and given their jobs based on “a series of formal interviews” by the president-elect. The powers that be will present them to Parliament as a dream team ticket, and we are expected to rubber stamp them before 1 November.
So, who are these people who will hold sway over the lives of so many Europeans for the next five years? It’s a rather mixed bag. Much has been made of the fact that the line-up features 13 women, making it the “most gender-balanced Commission in EU history”. I am not a supporter of identity politics, but when Ms Von der Leyen boasts that the new Commission cabinet is “as diverse as Europe is”, one is tempted to point out that they are all white. Unless you count the Belgian nominee Didier Reynders, who in 2015 was accused of racism after he dressed up in blackface for a charity event in Brussels.
The newly-appointed Justice Commissioner (whose role involves ensuring compliance with the rule of law) insisted it was a harmless tradition. Fair enough, but after listening to endless speeches at the European Parliament achingly flaunting their anti-racists credentials, and calling for legal sanctions against hate speech, this hypocrisy is hard to take.
Perhaps he is a quality politician and is worth the grief? Perhaps, except that he recently failed to become President of the Council of Europe and was passed over for the Commission in 2014, making it third time lucky for a seat on the gravy train. But then he does have solid credentials, having previously worked in the Belgium government under its then Prime Minister, the anti-Brexit, friend-of-the-Lib-Dems Guy Verhofstadt.
Read the whole article here.